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Socktober returns at Westridge

Fifth-grader Derek Spear collects pairs of feet warmers for people in need

SUBMITTED PHOTO: CYNDI SPEAR - Derek Spear and his fellow students are working together on Socktober.Socktober’s back for the third year in a row — this time with a bigger goal and more beneficiaries.

Westridge Elementary School fifth-grader Derek Spear founded the annual feet-warming event when he was in third grade. Since then, the event’s goal has grown by hundreds, and this year, it will help out three additional organizations.

Derek, 10, says he has an urge to help people, especially those who have no place to


“There’s a lot of homeless people that don’t have any socks, but it’s winter,” he says, “and I want to keep them warm, and socks are (among) the most-needed and least-donated items for homeless people in general.”

Derek’s already helped thousands of people in need, and he’s about to help many more. In his first year, his event garnered 1,025 pairs of socks, a pile of donations that increased to 1,200 the following year and inspired the goal of 1,500 pairs for this year. Contributions are hovering at about 1,000 socks so far this fall, but there’s still time to donate. Rather than hold Socktober for two weeks as usual, school Principal Kari Montgomery encouraged Derek to add another week to achieve his bigger goal.SUBMITTED PHOTO: CYNDI SPEAR - Derek Spear loves giving back and says, 'I think it's fun going to the shelters and giving them the socks. They're always super happy, and seeing their faces that are super excited is very nice.'

Today and Friday are the last days to give. There are donation barrels just outside the lobby at Westridge, 3400 Royce Way. Doors are open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

“In the front, there’s a big banner, so you know you’re going to the right school, and then we have posters all over,” Derek says.

Derek would like to remind would-be donors to provide new socks — not dirty, old ones, which some people have done. Not a stand-up thing to do, he notes.

“It’s not very nice,” Derek says. “If you’re living on the street, you probably already have crusty socks.”

New organizations benefitting from Westridge’s Socktober event this year include Portland Rescue Mission, Northwest Housing Alternative in Milwaukie and Transition Projects Inc. in Portland. Previously, Derek’s fundraiser has provided clean socks to Good Neighbor Center in Tigard, Clackamas Women’s Services in Oregon City, Yolanda House for Women and Children in Portland and Goose Hollow Family Shelter in Portland — and it will again this year.

Derek says he cannot wait to deliver his donations to these groups.

“I think it’s fun going to the shelters and giving them the socks,” Derek says. “They’re always super happy, and seeing their faces that are super excited is very nice.”

All of these groups got a boost because Derek was inspired by Kid President. Kid President is actually a small group that spearheads projects such as the national Socktober, and a young person serves as the face of Kid President. When Derek saw someone so young helping out, he wanted to do so too.

His mom, Cyndi Spear, says her son has a strong sense of empathy in him, especially when it comes to homeless people struggling outside during wintertime, which helped move him to action.

But she points out that the effort is not just about Derek, but about his whole school: the students, staff and teachers banding together to make the event possible.SUBMITTED PHOTO: CYNDI SPEAR - Everyone banded together at Westridge to make Socktober happen.

“He’s into it, and we’re into it as a family,” Cyndi Spear says. “It’s been a cool project.”

It looks like this project could stick around when Derek heads to sixth grade at Lakeridge Junior High next year. He says he plans to pass the torch to the students in the new student council leadership program that Montgomery initiated in her first year as principal at the school. He’d like to come back in October 2017 and lend a hand.

“Hopefully, next year we get to do Socktober again,” Derek says.

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..