Written By Benjamin Baldwin
At first glance, Madison Steiner is a typical college student securing a degree in social work at New Mexico Highlands University. However, she has already discovered a way to utilize her passion for art and make a tremendous impact for hundreds of sick children. Through her nonprofit, Peachâ€™s Neet Feet (PNF), Steiner hand-paints personalized canvas shoes for children struggling with cancer, life-threatening illnesses or lifelong disabilities.
Madison has been driven to help others since childhood. Her mother encouraged her as a child to pay it forward by doing random acts of kindness. â€śMy dream has always been to change the world,â€ť says Steiner. â€ś With [PNF] Iâ€™m not changing the whole world, but one kidâ€™s world with every pair of shoes that I send out. â€ś
Frustrated with the society deeming her generation the â€śMe Generation,â€ť Madison decided to change that generalization by starting PNF to celebrate children sick with life-threatening illnesses and/or disabilities. By illustrating their unique stories on their shoes, Madison hopes to recognize their courage and make them feel special. â€śEach one of these kiddos has a story and seeing them with their shoes on helps me to believe that Iâ€™m part of the story,â€ť she says.
Steiner wears peachy shoes herself with the slogan: â€śFrom my heart to your sole.â€ť While she initially covered all expenses out of pocket, she now relies on othersâ€™ donations for shoes and supplies, but still gives her art and time for free. In a short year, PNF has grown substantially in ways that she couldnâ€™t have imagined. She has formed partnerships with large companies like Vans and Converse. She also enlisted her brother, Corey, and other guest artists to help fulfill the growing demand for the shoes.
There are now â€śpeachyâ€ť shoes being worn in over 40 states all over the United States and even overseas in Scotland. Madison works with several childrenâ€™s hospitals and pediatricians all over the US to help grow the network. Painting over 45 shoes a month, Steiner was thrilled when the famed physician and spiritual guide, Deepak Chopra, became a fan and requested a pair of shoes. PNF has painted over 315 pairs to date and hopes to inspire others to join her cause.
While Madison has had many inspirational experiences since launching PNF, she most enjoys delivering shoes personally. She says kids call their new shoes â€śmagicâ€ť in helping them â€śkick cancerâ€ť by helping empower sick kids with a positive attitude
â€śMy 2-year old Easton adore his Neet Feet!â€ť wrote a mother whose son struggles with cancer. â€śWhen he wears them, magic happens. His mood brightens and he musters up energy to whatever he wants.â€ť
She receives photos of the children wearing their shoes in clinic while receiving their treatments with huge smiles on their faces because of the shoes. The pictures remind her daily of the organizationâ€™s impact and reignite her passion to help as many sick or disabled kids as possible.
â€śâ€™You go through so much,â€ť Maygen Carney says through tears, whose 2-year old son has diplegic cerebral palsy. â€śHaving people take the time to recognize theyâ€™re special, itâ€™s a little thing, but a big thing to us.â€ť
In 2012, Steiner was awarded the Good Samaritan Real Heroes Award in Northwest, New Mexico for all of her effort through PNF in helping others. She felt honored, but said the award was recognition of all of those who have helped her build the PNF movement: â€śMy name may on the award, but PNF and my fabulous team are the real winners of this award,â€ť she says.
Long term, Madison hopes PNF will secure the funding to provide salaries for her and a staff so she can focus full-time on expanding PNF and providing more hands-on interaction by traveling to have personal shoe deliveries for the kids. Supporters can contribute via PNFâ€™s website by donating money/supplies or volunteering to become a â€śshoe fairyâ€ť and delivering shoes to a child in need living in your area.
Steiner feels so fortunate to be able to commit herself to such a meaningful cause and adds that she learns so much from those she helps. â€śThey teach me to be humble,â€ť she says. â€śTo be resilient and look beyond the little things in life that might get you down.â€ť
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