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'I’m able to honor her and her love for shoes': Houston County girl remembered with shoe drive

18-month-old Ellie Keen died unexpectedly this summer. Her mother says they want to celebrate her love of shoes by holding a shoe drive for the less fortunate.
Credit: Ellie Keen

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — The Houston County community is rallying together to help those less fortunate in memory of an infant.

Ellie Keen passed away in her sleep unexpectedly at 18-months-old in July.

“When I found her that morning to get ready for daycare,” said Ellie’s mother, Krista.

Krista says Ellie always loved shoes, putting them on and off and playing with her shoestrings.

“She would actually put on my sister's high heeled shoes and being 18-months-old, walking around in her mom's high-heeled shoes it was like a big thing for her," said Ellie's aunt, Karlyn Weldon. "The shinier the better."

Weldon says Ellie's favorite pair of shoes were pink Chuck Taylors.

On the day of Ellie’s funeral, Krista's friends started taking pictures of their shoes, posting them online, and tagging her.

“To kind of lift my spirits from something that happened so tragically,” she said. “So that’s how it got started.

Now, the Keen family, along with Foster Families of Middle Georgia, is organizing Shoes4Ellie.

They’re taking new shoe and sock donations until Dec. 11. It’s all part of an effort to make sure kids the organization supports have new shoes in honor of Ellie’s memory.

Causes event in Perry, GA by Shoes4Ellie on Saturday, November 21 2020

“My daughter not being here, if I can make one kid smile because of my daughter, it’s so worth it,” Krista said. “It makes dealing with the tragedy easier.”

On Nov. 21, they’re holding a shoe-drive kick-off event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Foundation Academy at 2157 Houston Lake Road.

“At the kick-off, we’re going to have bouncy houses, we’re going to have face painting. Homegrown Yoga is going to be there. They’re going to do a kids yoga,” Krista said.

There will also be food trucks and a donut tent at the event.

Krista says seeing the community rally together for Ellie has helped her get through this tough time.

Credit: Keen family

“Because I’m able to honor her and her love for shoes and I’m able to just make her happy,” she said.

Krista says they plan to hold this event annually.

“I essentially have something for her in my life to look forward to each year even though she’s not here,” she said.

Ellie has a twin brother, Eli, and an older sister, Lilly. Krista says they’ve been doing well since Ellie’s passing, considering the circumstance.