Sneaker store delivers fresh kicks to honor roll students

'I want to show the kids... anything is possible'

READING, Pa. - Any other day of the year, Tyler Simmons runs one of the premiere sneaker stores on the East Coast, but Thursday, he was Sneaker Santa.

"There's just something about opening a brand new box and smelling the paper, smelling the sole," said Simmons, the owner of The Plug in Reading. "I used to lick the sole when I got a brand new pair. It's just what I loved to do."

His idea as Sneaker Santa this holiday season was to give one honor roll student at each of Reading's 13 elementary schools a pair of shoes from his store, The Plug, located at 216 Penn Street.

The elementary schools selected the students by collecting the names of everyone on the honor roll and pulling one lucky student's name out of a hat.

Simmons and his two volunteers, Gary Simmons and Jermeel Tyson, spent the morning traveling to the schools in the store's "Plug Bus."

"I recently got a shuttle bus and turned it into a mobile store," said Simmons, "so I said, 'Why not take it around to all 13 elementary schools and show up at their school?'"

"The first stop, it blew me away," said Gary Simmons, Tyler's godfather.

"It's just special to be part of something like this," said Tyson, who is Tyler's uncle.

The look on the children's faces makes it worth it, but the real reason Simmons does it is to give students incentive to elevate their minds by raising their grades in the classroom.

"A great story last year was a student came with his sister, and his sister had an honor roll report card. He seen her get a free pair, and he wasn't doing too well in school. He had maybe a couple Fs and Ds, Cs," Simmons recalled. "That kid showed up that next quarter with straight As, so that's the purpose right there.

Reading born-and-raised, Simmons was once in their shoes.

"I want to show the kids in Reading, specifically because I'm from here," he said. "The kids look like me. I know minorities sometimes get a bad name, and I want to make sure that it doesn't matter what color skin you are, anything is possible."

Simmons said The Plug will carry out the same honor roll giveaway for the city's middle schools next quarter, followed by the city's high schools (RHS, RIHS, I-LEAD) the next quarter. He added that in the quarter after that, there will be a district-wide honor roll giveaway.

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