As Shekinyah Mason shops for shoes, her son Gabriel looks up at her and asks, “Mom will this fit my big foot?”
Gabriel is three years old and has Cloves Syndrome, a rare progressive overgrowth diagnosed in about 250 people in the world. Very little is known or understood about Cloves. Due to this condition, Gabriel has three enlarged toes on his right foot and two enlarged toes on his left. When he was one year old, one of his toes was amputated to help with functionality and to more easily allow him to wear shoes in the future.
However, after the amputation finding shoes didn’t get any easier. The Masons went to store after store to find a shoe their son could wear. And when they finally did, they always had to purchase two pairs to account for the three size difference in his feet—something that quickly got expensive. The best fit they could find were a pair of extra wide tennis shoes.
“He really couldn’t walk too far in these shoes—after awhile we would always end up carrying him.” his mom shared. To minimize his pain his parents would have him run around in a pair of socks or go barefoot, but this still prevented him from going many places and feeling like a normal little kid.
One afternoon Gabriel’s grandmother Tammy decided to search online for a pair of “expandable sandals”. She clicked on a link that took her to The Shoe That Grows and decided to order a pair. After they arrived, Tammy and Shekinyah helped Gabriel put them on and for the first time in his life he had access to shoes that wouldn’t hurt his feet. Better yet, after hours of wear there were no marks or deep indentations on his toes.
Gabriel’s first visit to the playground after putting on The Shoe That Grows was a special moment for the Mason family. “Normally we would have to be right there to hold his hand but he went out on his own,” his mom remembered. “It was nice to see him more independent—we didn’t have to carry him at all.”
Even Gabriel’s doctor was impressed with The Shoe That Grows. “He thought they were a great idea and wanted to suggest them to other patients,” his mom continued, “Gabriel has been through a lot in his short little life with so many doctor visits—getting x-rays and blood work—but you would never know it because he laughs and just goes on about his day. He is a happy, crazy, wild little boy.”
The Shoe That Grows has saved Gabriel from losing any more toes, given him more freedom to interact with his peers, and the opportunity to develop wholesome relationships that last into adulthood. His mom endearingly explained, “[Gabriel] is very smart and aware of things, he knows something is different about him. These shoes make him feel more like kids his age. He loves showing off his sandals!”
Photos courtesy of Shekinyah Mason.