Project Happy Feet’s first Slipper Race raised S$83,000 for underprivileged children.
Contributed By Peter Hua
It was a most novel idea even for race-mad Singapore, which has seen running events of all sorts. Project Happy Feet, a non-profit organization that benefits underprivileged youth, flagged off its inaugural Slipper Race at the East Coast Park on Nov. 13. No sports shoes were allowed.
The idea behind the Slipper Race was to serve as a reminder for all 1,800 participants and numerous other supporters that children in developing nations often don’t have covered shoes even in the dead of winter.
Said Deborah Chew, co-founder of Project Happy Feet, before the race: “The reason we are walking in slippers is because there are children out there who walk three to five kilometers just to attend school and have a chance at education. I hope you will walk in honor of these children, and remember their plight.
“By coming today, you would have already made a difference because 100 percent of your registration fees are going directly to the beneficiaries.”
Chew is also the managing director of design think tank Caelan & Sage Pte Ltd.
The funds the Race raised will go to needy children in Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Singapore, the funds go to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. Overseas, they are disbursed to This Life Cambodia, an Australian sustainable community development initiative, and the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a Thai foundation that reaches out to Vietnamese street kids and helps break the poverty cycle in their lives.
The Slipper Race raised in excess of S$83,000. While this is a decent sum, Project Happy Feet is appealing to donors to help reach its target of S$150,000.
Mayor of South East District Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman flagged off the race, which started not with a bang but waves of giggles as the amused runners were entertained by the melodious pitter-patter of their flapping slippers.
This was also, clearly, a non-competitive race, though some participants got a kick out of out-flapping each other to the finish line. What struck the onlooker was the many smiles and peals of laughter, the children with their faces all painted, the girls in cheerleader costumes, the families with their babies blissfully asleep in strollers, all getting together to take a lovely stroll and enjoy a beautiful sunrise. Being part of the race evoked feelings of humanitarianism and camaraderie.
Retiree Freddy Lee, who gamely raced in his flipflops, said, “This initiative is very interesting and meaningful. I’m very supportive of helping our future generations. I’m 61 this year, and this race is very impressive to this old man.”
“It was a memorable race with a good purpose of understanding the hardship [these children go through]. I’m glad to be part of this novelty race and I look forward to more of such events. I actually perspired a lot, even just walking in slippers,” said Silvia Sng, 46, a lawyer.
91.3FM DJ Charmaine Yee also made a special guest appearance, to the vivid cheers of the participants. She encouraged them to support the cause further by purchasing PHF merchandise. All proceeds from the sale of these items will go to the beneficiaries.
Since its inception in 2007, PHF has raised more than S$180,000 through its fund-raising initiatives such as Chefs For A Cause in 2009. The organization has supported more than 4,000 children and youth in Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia through its programs.