Tinyia Frank was looking for a pair of shoes to go with the pants she’d just purchased at the mall in Warren, Ohio, when a chance encounter changed her plans. As she was talking to a salesperson at Champs, a young boy excused himself to ask the man a question.
“He asked the man if they had any basketball shoes that are under $75, because that’s all that he had,” Tinyia told Yahoo Lifestyle. “He kind of put his head down and looked disappointed to say it, not like he was saying it disrespectfully or anything, just kind of sad because that’s all he had.”
Unfortunately, basketball sneakers are much more expensive than that, so the boy and his father tried to find a cheaper substitute. But the exchange piqued 19-year-old Tinyia's interest, and she worked her way into their conversation. It turns out that the boy, Jordan, is in fifth grade and on a traveling basketball team, which is something significant to Tinyia.
“It was a little traveling basketball team, because where I live, they don’t have anything for the young people,” she explained of Warren, a town that has suffered from the decline of American manufacturing in recent decades.
“We’ve got one of the highest rates of overdoses in the country in our city, and we have nothing for the youth. They took away our centers that we had for young people, our dancing teams; nothing gets funded. So when he told me that he was on the traveling team and couldn’t afford the shoes that he wanted, I couldn’t do nothing but feel bad because the way that I was raised: If you got it, you give it to people.”
That’s when Tinyia, a college student who works in a bar, offered to buy the boy whatever pair of shoes he wanted, as long as he’d send her a photo of himself wearing them at his first game.
“His dad started crying,” Tinyia said. “The worker at Champs – they know me because I come in there and get shoes so much – he was like, ‘This woman is not playing with you.'”
After a half-hour of careful deliberation, because he wanted shoes that he could also wear to an upcoming school dance, Jordan picked out a pair of red LeBrons. Tinyia didn’t seem to mind that they cost AUD$230.
“If I was going to get him some shoes, I wanted him to get what he liked,” she said. “Money is just money. Not to say it’s not important. I work a lot for my money. I’d rather go without getting my 15th pair of shoes and give it to a little boy who clearly only had one.”
The father and the Champs store owner insisted on taking a photo of Tinyia and Jordan, which she posted to Facebook. By the time she got home from the mall, she says, it already had 50,000 likes. That number has since nearly tripled.
Now that she’s gone viral, Tinyia hopes others are inspired to help each other, especially in her hometown. On Wednesday, she took to Facebook again to spread the love.
“I never thought something so small could mean so much to so many people!” she wrote. “I’ve gotten so many amazing messages from people all around the world, I can’t reply to them all but thank you all so much! Take what you see and learn from it sometimes things that seem so small to you can change someone else’s world.”