Student raises awareness with bare feet, determination

Sept. 22, 2014

Ashley Thompson
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Shoes can make a statement about you. Especially if you aren’t wearing any at all.

Tori Gruber, freshman criminal justice and psychology major, will be shoe-and-sockless for three months from now until early December to raise awareness for human trafficking and child sex slavery.

“A lot of the men and women don’t have shoes,” she said. “The only shoes they have are those they wear to a client’s house.”

Human sex trafficking is the third-largest illegal enterprise in the world, and the fastest-growing business of organized crime. It is prevalent not only in countries around the world but also in the United States.

Gruber hopes to motivate people to talk about the issues.

Her inspiration stems from the founder of Joy International, Jeff Brodsky. Joy International is a nonprofit organization that hopes to rescue child sex slaves. Brodsky has been barefoot for four years.

“It upset me that I knew nothing about human trafficking,” Gruber said. She decided to do something the first time she heard Brodsky’s mission at her high school’s Diversity Day.

Gruber attempted to start a Barefoot Day then, but school administration told her it was a fire-code safety issue. To ensure her plan would be a success in college, she made sure to get permission from UCCS authorities.

“Asking the dean was merely out of respect. I also didn’t want to violate any codes,” Gruber said. “I signed waivers that allow me to go into Clyde’s and Café 65 barefoot.”

Gruber’s plan to raise awareness for sex trafficking got the all-clear and she began preparation. Callouses built on her feet for two to three weeks. She researched ways to prevent the common injuries and illnesses that are possible when extensively walking barefoot.

“It has a lot of dangers to it, and I’m very nervous for the snow to come around, because frostbite is a serious thing,” she said. “[Another risk is] the equivalent to black mold on your feet, and the only way you can get it removed is through surgery.”

Gruber is taking extra precautions to keep her feet warm. She said that going barefoot for 3 months is not something to be taken lightly and wants to stay safe and smart about it.

She has already been approached by several curious students, and her call to action for those she informs is simple.

“Donate money to a legitimate foundation, volunteer at shelters and spread the word,” Gruber said.

She mentioned Joy International as a legitimate charity to give money to.

“I’m not trying to get attention, I’m trying to raise awareness,” she said.