When Ajon Crump's cousin, a nurse on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, was complaining about her feet hurting from a marathon hospital shift, Crump had the idea to surprise her by swapping her sneakers out. So, she bought a gift card to help her cousin buy new shoes for the daunting shifts spent battling the novel coronavirus. And then she started to think bigger.

How could she play her part in helping nurses who have to be on their feet at hospitals during a time when most of us are staying home? Crump (who ran for class president at Bay Shore High School, my alma mater) found inspiration in her cousin and the #NikesForNurses GoFundMe campaign was born.

Over the past few weeks, Crump has been taking donations, ordering sneakers, and shipping them out or hand-delivering them to nurses who need supportive footwear. Her goal is provide over 100 nurses across the country with new sneakers, and she's well on her way to surpassing that. Complex spoke to Crump via email about the cause and her goals.

This cause is close to your heart. It was your idea after your cousin, who is a nurse, was complaining about her feet hurting from a long shift during this pandemic, right?
Partially! My cousin, Danielle, certainly inspired this idea. Her birthday was in the beginning of April, and she mentioned needing new sneakers. That's when I first tied together nurses and how important sneakers are—an idea that has certainly been validated by many nurses. 

How has she been feeling with the new Nikes?
I'd hurt my own feelings trying to pick out sneakers for my cousin; we have two different styles. I sent Danielle a gift card for her birthday around the same value of the sneakers that I purchased when I first started. I love a good surprise, and I know she didn't expect that e-mail. She was super excited and thanked me for the gift card. I thanked her for her hard work, she thanked me for acknowledging it, I thanked her for thanking me…that's how a lot of my conversations have gone lately. 

Are you shopping for the sneakers once the money comes in and taking inventory of nurses' sizes?
There's only been one full week of ordering, but I believe I've established a schedule. Friday and Sunday are the days that I place an order of 10-plus sneakers at a time. I receive shipment on Monday for me to package on Tuesday morning, and another shipment on Wednesday for me to package Thursday evening. Then, throughout the weekend I drop them off at the post office or deliver them locally. Sunday mornings are for 30-plus minute deliveries on Long Island. I don't intend for anyone's sneakers to be delivered more than 10 days after the initial request. 

Nikes For Nurses
Image via Ajon Crump

My inventory spreadsheet is very important, shoutout to Numbers and iCloud Drive. It contains their full names, address, shoe size, date of request, status of request, date delivered, and who referred them.

I am working full-time and this is my graduating semester [in college]; I would lose my mind if I didn't have this campaign organized. It's also the first time I've been so passionate about a campaign since running for high school class president. Its success will determine how much more I can do for people.

Is there a specific hospital you're focusing on?
There is not a specific hospital that I am working on. So far, I have delivered sneakers as far as New Orleans.  

One challenge that I had, that I probably should have expected, is a rumor spreading in two hospitals that this initiative was created by Nike. In about four hours I had about 28 requests from nurses at one single hospital thanking Nike for their contribution. The biggest issue with that is that because of a rumor, I would have had no more money to fund other requests. When I replied to each person from those hospitals explaining what the campaign truly is, many of them rescinded their request and urged me to send it to people who may need them more.  

You've raised over $4,200 dollars already with a goal of $7,500. How did you set that goal?
My goals have varied and I'd love to keep it that way. Once one goal is reached, I can set a new one. I've set a goal based on the amount of nurses that would be accommodated. Most of the sneakers that I have sent are Nike Winflo 5; the sale price and shipping costs equal about $75.

My first goals were $750 and $1,500 (10 or 20 nurses). My friends and family helped me reach both goals by day three without too much effort from me, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I reached the goal of $3,750 (50 nurses) on April 23, day nine. Now the goal is $7,500 (100 nurses). There is certainly no shortage of nurses who could use a new pair of sneakers, so the demand will be there, and I plan on working hard to supply as much as I can. 

Nikes For Nurses
Image via Ajon Crump

How many nurses have received new sneakers because of #NikesForNurses?
So far, 18 nurses have received new sneakers. I have some truly incredible stories. One woman is my coworker's sorority sister—she is a nurse from Boston who traveled to NYC because of New York's shortage of healthcare workers. She posted about forgetting her shoes back home and followed up by saying she was (gratefully) borrowing someone's old sneakers. I was so glad to deliver a brand new pair to her hotel in a very empty Times Square. 

Has there been a favorite model from the nurses so far?
Unless the size is unavailable, all nurses are receiving the same pairs: Nike Winflo 5. I bought myself a pair first because I walk 10-15 miles per week and needed a comfortable sneaker. I am particular about how far the back of sneakers come up near the ankle, sometimes it creates an uncomfortable experience. I chose a shoe that I know is comfortable and affordable to help as many nurses as possible.  

Readers can donate to #NikesForNurses here.