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Shoes-for-Benin bodyEarly last year, Henry and Beth Cruz, both members of the Wagner College class of 1971, were sitting in the bleachers of the Spiro Sports Center, cheering on the Seahawks men’s basketball team. Residents of Ridgewood, New Jersey, the Cruzes rarely ever miss a Wagner home game.

That night, to raise awareness of breast cancer, the team was sporting hot pink sneakers. What, Beth wondered aloud, would happen to those sneakers after the game?


At the end of July 2013, that question brought Beth and Henry to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Benin to the United Nations, on East 38th Street in Manhattan, to hand off several boxes of green, white, black — and pink — basketball sneakers.

With them was Naofall Folahan ’14, a Wagner senior international business major, a 6-foot-11-inch center for the Seahawks, and a native of the West African nation of Benin.

They met him last spring, when they were on campus to attend a reception for Wagner’s new basketball head coaches, Bashir Mason and Lisa Cermignano, and to pick up the hot pink shoes. Through Seahawk Assistant Coach Scott Smith, who is also a resident of Ridgewood, they had heard about a person in Ridgewood who regularly sends used athletic equipment to Central America. So, that’s where that batch of shoes was headed.

Coach Smith asked Naofall and a few other teammates to help load the shoes into Beth’s car.

Why couldn’t we send shoes to his country, Benin, Naofall asked.

“Good question,” said Henry Cruz, a semi-retired consultant to small business owners. ...

READ THE REST of Laura Barlament's story on the Wagner Magazine website

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