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In Panama, children aren't allowed to go to school barefoot, which means that if a child doesn't have shoes, she can't get an education. But in remote areas of the tropical country, many families simply can't afford them.
Enter Crocs, which has donated more than 2.7 million pairs of its trademark shoes in more than 40 countries since 2007 through its Crocs Cares program. In Panama the Crocs contribution has allowed thousands of kids to attend their local schools for the first time. (UNICEF, which partners with Crocs Cares, even had to get a special decree from Panama's Ministry of Education that would allow the casual shoes to be accepted as part of the school uniform.)
"For the poorest, most marginalized kids, a pair of Crocs is a phenomenal gift," says Mark Connolly, UNICEF regional adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean. "The colorful shoes could be their ticket to a better life."Health Plan
Through its charitable giving, WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurer, is tackling tough public health issues.
Since 2000, the company has awarded over $130 million to local and national initiatives like Catch Healthy Habits, an after-school program that pairs adult volunteers with kids. The teams meet weekly to exercise and share healthy snacks.
The results have been encouraging, says Marcia Kerz, whose nonprofit Oasis Institute partnered with WellPoint to pilot the program, which will be in 14 states by 2012. The kids are eating more fruits and veggies and spending less time watching TV and playing video games.More Than Meals
Working with a nationwide network of local food banks, Walmart helps feed a lot of hungry people. In the past year alone, the company has provided 197 million meals -- that's 256 million pounds of meat, fresh produce, and other nutritious foods.
More help is on the way: The company has pledged to donate $2 billion in cash, equipment, and food through 2015. "That's just a mind-blowing investment," says Rob Zeaske, executive director of the Twin Cities-based food bank Second Harvest Heartland, a Walmart partner.
Walmart's gift of refrigerated food trucks is especially important, explains Zeaske, because they play an essential role in food-rescue efforts. In the past, many hunger-relief programs depended mostly on manufactured goods, but with the trucks they can rescue perishable (and often healthier) food that would otherwise wind up in landfills and distribute it to people in need.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, September 2011.