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'A surprise': Billings nonprofit donates tennis shoes to Washington Elementary's FIT club

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Posted at 6:06 PM, Oct 16, 2023

BILLINGS — A new pair of tennis shoes isn’t cheap, so one PE teacher at Washington Elementary School, a Billings Title 1 school, set up his FIT club students for success with the help of the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation.

Monday morning at Washington Elementary kicked off to a good start as 50 elementary students got new tennis shoes and water bottles for free.

“It’s comfy,” said 9-year-old McKinley Drake.

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Washington Elementary PE teacher Nick Ottoy fits his students for running shoes.

It all started from a simple observation by PE teacher Nick Ottoy, who manages the FIT club after school, a club that promotes activities like track and running.

“I definitely think there’s a need here, being a title school for Washington. Being a P.E. teacher, I saw a lot of kids without the right tennis shoes on, Crocs, sandals, you know, boots,” Ottoy said.

He decided to do something about it and reached out to the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, not knowing what to expect.

“I was just reaching out to see what I could do to help our kids here at Washington and it was like, here you go. Really cool,” said Ottoy.

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Heather Bergeson

“Some of these kids have never had a pair of brand-new shoes. A lot of them get hand-me-down shoes from older siblings or donation, so it’s really exciting to see their faces light up with a new pair of shoes,” said Heather Bergeson, the senior development director for the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation.

“I didn’t know what they look like. And it’s fun when it’s like a surprise,” 9-year-old Tristan Ormbrek said.

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Tristan Ormbrek

The gesture wasn’t lost on 9-year-old Briella Saldana.

“Some kids don’t really have that money to get some,” said Saldana.

Ottoy hopes it will encourage the kids to be more active and hopefully pound the pavement in his FIT club.

“My hope is just that they keep them, they wear them, they’re excited about that and they tell their families about it,” Ottoy said.

Some students may even tell their families about their favorite PE teacher.

“He is nice. He’s cool,” said Drake.