Ever since I started TOMS people have been calling me Tom. At first it would take someone yelling my name across a store or party 4 or 5 times until I realized what was going on. Now, I answer to it just as if someone called out Blake. You see, my name is not Tom, and I am sure this is news for several people reading this. My name is Blake. TOMS comes from my initial desire to provide the kids with �shoes for TOMORROW�, so TOMS is short for Tomorrow. Ok, settled, well maybe�.
Just as I was getting used to going by Blake and Tom, a new name was produced, Tommy. Yes, only 5 minutes into my lunch at the Gene Witt Elementary School cafeteria a young boy shouted, �Hey Tommy, look at me� as he stuck a whole orange into his mouth and smiled. Now I am sure you are wandering what me and Zak are doing in an elementary school cafeteria. No doubt we are frugal and are always hungry, but eating on the Florida Independent school district�s dime is probably crossing the line. BUT, we were invited.
The back-story is really incredible, but quite long. Here is the jest. Ms. Reagan�s 4th grade class read about me in TIME Magazine for Kids a few weeks ago. They have a program in their class called GottaGiv, and they immediately pronounced me a �GottaGiver�. That day the class created posters with their own TOMS designs (yes I was given the drawings and are incorporating them into the Spring 08 collection). During lunch the next day, Ms. Reagan sent us an email to inform TOMS about her class�s enthusiasm for TOMS and that I was a �GottaGiver� in their eyes. This email was forwarded to my dad (another long story) and before I knew it, my dad had informed Ms. Reagan that I would be in Florida on the tour soon and perhaps I could stop by and say thanks to the kids. When he told me this, I could not have been more excited. While I love doing events at fashion boutiques, Nordstrom, and other people�s homes, what I really love are kids, and to hang with some 4th graders for an afternoon sounded like a lot of fun. Fun does not describe what happened yesterday. Inspiring, Joy, Humbling, and Passion do�.well we also had a lot of fun, but you get the point.
Zak Ferris showing the kids all the states we have traveled on our tour
In the week prior to our visit, the kids had all created their own speech about TOMS and visited all the other classes in the elementary school to give them. They also posted signs about our mission all over the school, and each student took time to write me a personal letter. I had tears rolling down my cheeks this morning as I read them. Not since our first shoe drop in Argentina had I felt this emotional and inspired. This is what TOMS is all about, and no ad agency, marketing genius, or company brainstorming session could have said it better than these kids.
Aaron, class winner, giving his speech about TOMS
Below are some of their designs and pics from our day at Gene Witt Elementary. Also, please take the time to watch the video of Aaron�s speech about TOMS (his peers voted it)
Also, TOMS Tour blog is now live on www.Elle.com with exclusive daily content, check it out.