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Red Shoe Auction raises funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities

Red Shoe Auction raises funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities

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Red shoes aren’t just for dancing.

Thanks to 20 local artists and the Red Shoe Auction, they are also for raising funds to support families who travel to Tucson in need of medical care for their children through Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

“Every year during the Ronald McDonald House Party we ask people to wear interesting and cool red shoes. This year, since we couldn’t do the House Party, we had to come up with creative ways to fundraise in a COVID world,” said Susan Causbie-Cowgill, past president of the board of directors and a member of the auction committee. “Someone suggested decorating red shoes for an auction and the idea took off. Artists were so excited to participate, and the shoes are amazing and so creative — some are silly, some are fun and some are gorgeous — and each pair is a work of art that shows the personality of the artist.”

The shoes will be up for auction beginning Dec. 1 (See box).

Causbie-Cowgill said the shoes vary from tennis shoes and heels to oxfords and sandals.

“You can wear them or display them if you prefer. There are all different sizes and hopefully your favorite is a pair that you can potentially wear,” she said.

Artist Chip Travers hopes his donation will be a strong contender for prospective buyers. He decorated a pair of Converse, in men’s size 8 (or women’s size 10).

“Red Converse are the only sneakers in the world. I have owned them for years; I have one pair that is 30 years old. They are just iconic and kind of fun,” said Travers, managing partner of Leaping Lizard Gallery, 6530 E. Tanque Verde Road, No. 140.

Travers began his career in graphic design and art direction in New York City before relocating to Tucson in 1976. Now a fine artist and illustrator, he once owned a company called “Life Was Good” that copyrighted more than 180 images of skeletons engaging in sports, everyday activities and crazy antics. For his Red Shoe Project, he chose a theme close to his heart: “Dia de los Muertos.”

“It is such a reflection of the local culture and ties into Southern Arizona and Mexico. It started out as a political statement in Mexico in the 1920s and grew into a celebration. Especially here in Tucson, ‘Day of the Dead’ is a great celebration; in normal times, we have a big parade downtown honoring relatives and friends who have passed,” Travers said.

Understanding that 2020 is far from normal, Travers incorporated the colorful, distinctive decorative format that has become symbolic of the celebration into his work in hopes that it will bring in funds for the Ronald McDonald House.

“The Ronald McDonald House has really stepped up and helped the kids and their families,” Travers said.

Not surprisingly, Ronald McDonald House services have been disrupted by the pandemic. For the first time in history, at the direction of RMHC Global, Ronald McDonald Houses were closed worldwide to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The local house was closed from March 20 until Aug. 24, when it was able to re-open after meeting conditions of a reinstatement plan.

“The thing that is so strange is that when the house was closed, our expenses went way up. We were putting families in hotels for five months. That is not something we were required to do, but we chose to do it because that is our mission. No one budgeted for a pandemic, but we wanted to do the right thing, and we just felt it would all work out,” said Kate Maguire Jensen, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

During the closure, RMHC placed 70 families in hotels and provided gift cards for meals as well since the kitchen at the house was not available. In spite of the fact that the house has re-opened and is currently hosting 10 families, the kitchen remains closed in an effort to mitigate spread of COVID.

“Our operating costs are still high due to enhanced cleaning requirements in the house. And normally, we have the wonderful Chef-for-a-Day program, so we never have had to budget for dinner before. We can’t have volunteers come in right now, so we have to pay for dinners,” said Maguire Jensen.

With the increase in expenses and changes in fundraising and volunteerism due to COVID, Causbie-Cowgill admitted that it has been a challenging year. She said that in spite of the altered fundraising climate, they remain optimistic about the future.

“All the nonprofits are in the same boat. How do you fundraise when fundraising has always been done face-to-face? We are all brainstorming about how to fundraise with limited options. Coming up with ideas has been a good exercise in creativity. We realize we don’t have to stay within normal parameters and need to come up with new and interesting ideas,” she said.

Ultimately, she credits the artists in the community for coming together to make unique events such as the Red Shoe Auction possible.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

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