Kennedi Kokesch was in our studio today and we think she is a superhero!
This unassuming eighth-grader with lavender-rimmed glasses is months away from joining a mission trip to Honduras — a trip she was requested to attend by a national nonprofit called Soles4Souls. She earned that invitation by organizing more than 40 businesses across southern Minnesota to aid her quest of collecting 25,000 pairs of shoes for distribution to those in need around the world.
But, what’s more, Kokesch is also the CEO of her own profitable business. At just 10 years old, she began making birdfeeders from discarded glass. She’s sold hundreds of them and has used the profits to finance a number of charitable endeavors, from starting college funds for herself and her sister to purchasing dozens of Christmas gifts for less fortunate kids in her own community.
So far, Kennedi has collected nearly 6,000 shoes for Soles4Souls, an organization that provides shoes to the needy in the United States and abroad. Each night, she and her mom put laces on the shoes that need them, rubber band the pairs together and box them up. They keep a running tally in a tattered lined notebook.
On snow days and holidays off from school, Kennedi accompanies her mom on pick-up runs across the region, packing the family’s Ford Expedition to the roof with shoes (other times, mom makes the runs herself). They’ve recruited churches, businesses and community organizations from Hutchinson and Lester Prairie to Lafayette, St. Peter and Mankato to collect shoes for the effort.
A local storage facility offered to let them store the shoes for free. A local office supply store is donating rubber bands. And they convinced a gas station to save boxes.
For her efforts, Kennedi was contacted recently by Soles4Souls officials, praising the magnitude of her project and inviting her to join a mission trip of her choice in April.
She chose Honduras and the opportunity to stay in a children’s orphanage to distribute shoes.
She chose that mission because Kennedi herself was once an orphan. Nancy said she adopted her daughter at 10 months old from an orphanage in Russia.She took an interest in recycling, which eventually led to the glass birdfeeder business. She took an interest in the less fortunate, which led her to begin purchasing gifts for the community Giving Tree and collecting shoes for Soles4Souls.
Even in the midst of her most ambitious enterprise to date, Kennedi jokes that she is already searching for her next project.
There’s just so many people to help,” she said.
To donate shoes, find a drop-off location or donate money to the cause, e-mail Kennedi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jillian and Bill with Kennedi and her bird feeders
Jillian and Kennedi
Nancy and Kennedi Kokesch
Click here for the link to soles4souls website if you want to donate or for more information-www.soles4soulsfundraising.org/cgi-bin/view_profile.cgi