Exchange-Girl-Gives-Back

Hannah Walker-Donelson picks out a few more shoes Aug. 2 at a store in Tupelo, Miss. The middle school student raised more than $2,000 to buy shoes for needy children.

TUPELO, Miss. — Hannah Walker-Donelson walked down the aisles of Shoe Carnival, stopping whenever she saw something that might work, but not selecting anything on impulse.

Back to school shopping? Yes.

For herself? No.

See, she’s a kid on a mission.

“I just like to see the smiles on kids’ faces,” Hannah said.

A 12-year-old Tupelo Middle School student, Hannah spent Aug. 1 and 3 selecting about 50 shoes that she then gave away, partnering with several non-profit and state agencies to connect those shoes with children who needed them.

The shoes were purchased from Shoe Carnival in Tupelo with donated funds and the assistance of a corporate discount.

Hannah said she wanted to give away shoes because she has seen other children bullied and taunted for wearing old or ugly shoes.

But she selected carefully, moving her final selections onto a cart reserved for the children that came Saturday before Shoe Carnival opened to the public.

“I don’t just focus on the shoes that are cute. I focus on what they need,” Hannah said. “The shoes have to be cute, but they also have to be practical.”

Hannah’s mother, Dee Donelson, was a key partner in the work.

“I’ve always wanted to travel the world. I first wanted to go to Africa at 9 years old,” Hannah said. “My mom thought I was crazy.”

Hannah has now been to four countries, traveling with family members, to visit orphanages and shelter to donate supplies.

She first felt a sense of call at age 9 to do that kind of work. She believes God selected her to do it.

“I heard ‘Africa.’ It was a feeling I never felt before,” Walker-Donelson said. “My mom thought I was crazy.”

Hannah stills keeps her mom amazed on a regular basis.

“She knows where every homeless person in Tupelo is,” Donelson said. “She told me people were staying under the bridge.”

With a shrug, Hannah doesn’t think she does much except pay attention.

“I’ve always looked out the window while we’re driving,” Hannah said.

Her mission-oriented perspective on the world keeps Hannah busy in the local community as well. She volunteers at a church to cook meals on Thanksgiving. She holds spiritual gatherings with classmates. She wants to give shoes away again at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Amid all this, she finds time for extracurricular and education pursuits. Hannah plays the oboe and dreams of attending Stanford University.

— she even attended a summer science program at Stanford this past summer.

“I hate sitting down,” Hannah said. “I have to stay active.”