Student organization showcase: Toms Club

Group aims to raise awareness on issues of poverty, shed light on charity footwear line



Story by Rachel Streich, Staff Writer

Members of the Toms Club are a part of the wide group of students who trek across campus wearing the popular Toms shoes. But this student organization supports more than a fashion trend.

Ian Behlke, the club’s president, said the group exists on campus to promote the Toms mission.

Toms’ one-for-one mantra means for each pair of shoes a person buys, the company gives a pair to a child in need. Toms has also expanded to offer eyewear to give people the gift of sight through glasses, eye surgeries and medical treatments. They recently announced their new line of coffee, which provides 140 liters of clean water to those in need for every bag of coffee purchased.

The Toms Club is different from other student organizations on campus because it seeks to make a difference beyond the Eau Claire community, Behlke said.

“If we can spread awareness so more people know what Toms is, then they can give back worldwide,” he said.
With this goal in mind, Behlke helped co-found the club three years ago after one of his peers talked about Toms in his speech class.

He said he was interested to learn more about the company, and later decided he was passionate enough to start a group on campus to support it.

Since then, the group has continued to meet every other week to plan events and socialize. Behlke said the current crowd is small, with six or seven people attending the meetings, but he hopes more will join in the future.

“It would be nice if we could get a larger group of people who wear Toms to come to meetings and help us spread the word,” Behlke said. “Because obviously you’ve supported it if you wear them.”

Behlke said an upcoming event will help promote Toms club. The Day Without Shoes event will take place April 29, and this year the weather might be a little warmer for the barefooted bunch. The event spreads awareness about people who walk without shoes every day and the problems associated with it, he said.

Another event the group promotes is Style Your Sole, a fall that gives people the chance to buy a pair of Toms and decorate them.

These events are opportunities for students to gather and promote the Toms cause, Behlke said.

Behlke also said students can benefit from participating in the group.

“They can gain the ability to learn about Toms and feel like they’re supporting something bigger and having fun,” he said.
Students can also bond with members who share the same interest, Behlke said.

However, not everyone supports Toms. Controversy arises from the fact that Toms is a for-profit business, not a non-profit.

Behlke’s response to the debate is Toms’ business model helps the company to expand and continue to progress.

While the future of the Toms Club is uncertain because of a turnover on the executive board, Behlke said students who get involved can not only become members, but they can also become leaders in upcoming semesters.