Polk parents turn tragedy into philanthropy

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The summer has flown by and the new school year is right around the corner. This weekend, a back-to-school bash called Summerpalooza is coming to Lakeland.

The bash will include activities and giveaways, including free sneakers. Tony Kirk, along with the Blended Family Foundation, plans on giving sneakers away in memory of his son.

Three years ago, Kalen Kirk was killed while crossing the road on his way to the bus stop. 

Kalen had a passion for shoes, he loved them so much his father nicknamed him "King of the pre-order."

"Any of the latest shoes, the coolest shoes, he wanted to have them," said Tony. 

Kalen also wanted others to have shoes with a bit of his personal touch on them.

"He had a little side hustle, as we called it," added Tony. 

He would take a pair of shoes, clean them, redesign and paint them. Eventually, he would sell the shoes to kids at school and lunch.  

Now, Kalen's parents are collecting new or gently-used shoes and giving them to people in need. This Saturday, kids will be able to get a free pair at Summerpalooza. 

"During the school year, we have kids who come in who have either worn or tattered shoes or flip-flops that are not in the dress code, so there is a definite need here in the community," said Ashley Wright of New Beginnings High School. 

Summerpalooza is held at the RP Funding Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.