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Students display shoes in honor of lives lost to tobacco
Remember the Soles event started with $1,000 grant
These are some of the hundreds of pairs of shoes that lined Downey Boulevard Thursday to represent the number of people who die each day from tobacco-related illnesses. - photo by Tom Reed

Hundreds of bedroom slippers, boots, sneakers and stilettos lined Downey Boulevard Thursday — soles meant to represent the souls lost daily to tobacco illness.

"I thought it was a really neat idea. We help the needy and we lay out shoes to show the deaths of smokers. So far we've got at least 300 (pairs)," said Chad Baker, 12, a seventh-grader at C.W. Davis Middle School.

Baker is one of the 89 members of Students Working Against Tobacco who helped collect the used shoes.

SWAT's goal was to have 1,200 pairs of shoes on display.

The shoes will be donated to the Potter's House in Gainesville, said Angie Caton, an oncology nurse at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and advisor to SWAT.

"We've brought the shoes to them before and they're very happy," she said.

Caton said preventing tobacco use is multifaceted, but it's important to teach students it's costly both for pocketbooks and for quality of life.

"It's really helping the community. It's telling them that doing tobacco can kill you," said Holly Hughes, 12, a seventh-grader at C.W. Davis Middle.

Aside from cancer, tobacco use contributes to myriad diseases: Emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cardiac disease and vascular diseases, Caton said.

"Getting those diseases is abstract for the kids," she said. "We try to talk about some of the aesthetics. They're more concerned about the aesthetics like premature aging and wrinkles, their physical appearance and how they appear to others."

This is the fourth year SWAT participated in Remember the Soles, an event done in conjunction with the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout.

It started with a $1,000 grant to the local oncology nurses group to do a community event.

Caton chose to focus on tobacco awareness.

"I work quite often with the SWAT kids and I thought it would be a good opportunity to involve them in," she said. "It's a way to show the kids why you shouldn't use tobacco."

In past years, the shoes have numbered between 600 and 800 pairs, somewhat short of the intended goal.

But the educational aspect is still there.

"I just think it's very important that people learn how many die a day of tobacco products, because I think it's a real problem," said Halie Windish, 13, a seventh-grader at C.W. Davis Middle. "I think it'll have a good effect on the community and maybe some people will stop smoking."