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Hooksett birthday boy, 8, gives a gift that's good for the sole

MANCHESTER — Happy with the load of toys he already owns, a boy approaching his eighth birthday told family and friends to just bring a pair of children's shoes as a gift, which he turned over to the Salvation Army on Tuesday.

Hooksett resident Connor Wolcott said he received 24 pairs, which exceeded his initial expectation of 20. And most people brought him a gift — ahem — to boot.

"I was just thinking of the children who needed shoes," Wolcott said when he stopped by Salvation Army headquarters on Cedar Street to drop off the shoes.

His clutch included dress shoes, cowboy boots, Crocs, Nikes, Airwalks, Iron Man and Spiderman sneakers.

Wolcott's own feet were clad in a pair of thick-soled, colorful flip-flops, one of only three pairs he calls his own. The others are sneakers and slippers.

"A donation like this is extremely helpful," said Capt. Herb Rader, who runs the Manchester Salvation Army. "People come in all the time. This is something we can give away easily."

Wolcott arrived with his parents — Carl, a restaurant manager, and Anita, an office manager. He beamed over the attention, and bounced from chair to his mother's lap, stealing a kiss on occasion.

He hatched the idea this winter at a dentist office, when the dentist asked about his birthday in casual conversation. Wolcott said he wanted shoes for disadvantaged children.

"With him being 7 years old, you would think he would change his mind between the time he said it and his birthday, but it was always that," his father said. His birthday was Monday.

The Salvation Army does not run a thrift store like Goodwill, but it has a room full of donated clothes that it distributes to the needy. In a year's time, it gives away between 175 and 200 pairs of new or gently-used shoes, said Susan Poulin, Salvation Army director of social services.

"You can hear them saying 'it still has a tag on it, it's brand new.' They get so excited.," Poulin said.

Wolcott said he could have asked gift-givers for clothes, but foot pain seemed to be a factor in his decision to ask for shoes.

"If you went swimming and it was really hot, your feet would get sunburned," he said, "and splinters, too."