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Local BioPed and Soles4Souls helping lift people out of poverty

'North Bay collected over 12,000 pairs of shoes. We almost doubled the amount that was collected by the second highest store'

Rooted is all about the people, places, and events, that make us proud to call our community home.   


On the surface, BioPed Footcare and Orthotics North Bay helps people with their foot pain.  

At its core Amanda Boettcher says, “We are a team that is here to help the community.”   

Boettcher is a Pedorthist, which, for technical purposes, is someone who specializes in the lower limbs. “We can address, assess and treat and fabricate anything from the hips to the tips of the toes.” 

But their greatest strength may be in the outreach they provide that stretches beyond the Gateway City.  

Boettcher was a recent guest on the “To North Bay with Love” podcast and she says the BioPed franchise is partnered with the nonprofit organization called Soles4Souls, whose goal is to help lift people out of poverty.  

The first step is that they collect shoes locally. “Our owner Crystal Kaufman opened the local franchise 15 years ago and since then she has had this message which she really instills in us about how important it is to give back. In the years we have been collecting shoes, we have collected the highest number of shoes in all of Canada and in 2023, North Bay collected over 12,000 pairs of shoes. We almost doubled the amount that was collected by the second highest store. And I feel like there is still room to grow,” says Boettcher.  

Boettcher says they collect all types of shoes including high heels, sandals, work boots, slippers and more. “A benefit of the program is that the shoes aren’t going into a landfill they are being repurposed and used for a second and third life.” 

The second step to that partnership is that the BioPed employees will travel to impoverished countries to participate in shoe distributions and Boettcher went on such a trip to Honduras at the beginning of 2020 to give out shoes to people there who didn’t have them.  

“We size and wash feet before distributing the shoes and we’re putting shoes on the feet of children who have never worn shoes in their lives. Knowing that there is a greater purpose and a greater good to what we are doing, that’s what keeps me going every day,” says Boettcher. 

“At first it is sad seeing how they are living, hearing the stories of how they're walking two hours to school barefoot. That is heartbreaking. But then slipping on a brand-new pair of shoes for a child that they get to go and color on, and design is remarkable. The smiles are what stuck with me.” 

Boettcher says the goal of Soles4Souls isn’t just giving out those shoes.  

“They don't want to give a handout, but they want to give them resources and help them long term,” says Boettcher 

“The used shoes we collect from people in North Bay go to micro entrepreneurs in those less fortunate countries and those micro entrepreneurs go through a yearlong program with Soles for Souls to learn how to refurbish those shoes and how to sustain a business.”  

Boettcher says those entrepreneurs are learning business skills, life skills, and how they can make a living for themselves selling these shoes.  

“In each country they have a partner on the ground who find those people in need and get them started through this program.” 

Boettcher says during her trip to Honduras they not only distributed over 600 pairs of shoes, but also met with a micro entrepreneur.  

“14 of us went early in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down and it was a life changing experience. We met our entrepreneur, a woman named Merari, and Merari is someone who went through a lot of struggles,” says Boettcher.  

“She has two children, one of whom is no longer with us. Both children were born with spina bifida (a birth defect in which an area of the spinal column doesn't form properly, leaving a section of the spinal cord and spinal nerves exposed through an opening in the back) and after her second child was born, her husband left her. She had no way to make a living to provide medical care for her children. She got partnered with Soles for Souls in 2020 and sold shoes out of her house. She told us that her biggest accomplishment was that she was able to use that money to buy a washing basin for her children because they were both in wheelchairs. Her oldest son Jeffery had a football sized wound in his back and this money was able to get medical care for Jeffery as well.” 

Boettcher says the journey just to get to Merari was filled with trepidation.  

“You went from a city, to rural, to a very rural area, to a zone that was controlled by the MS-13 gang,”(aka the Mara Salvatrucha, an international criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s). 

“This is an area where they put a lot of people who are physically or mentally disabled. They just move them from the city and out to the middle of nowhere and my thoughts on going to see her were, that this was going to be one of the saddest things I will ever experience.”  

But Boettcher says after spending time with Merari, it was one of the most joyful experiences she had ever had.  

“Seeing her smile and the amount of pride that she had in herself. Showing us everything that she had accomplished and showing us how what we are doing is helping her provide for her children. She wanted to show us her house and the shoes she was working on. Her smile was full of pride, it was like nothing I would have anticipated.” 

Boettcher says that perspective has changed her own outlook on life.  

“Knowing that I am a very privileged person in this world. How can I do good? How can I help and how can I change my perspective to be more like Merari?” 

Boettcher says bringing back these stories and these emotions to North Bay and to the BioPed clinic has helped in their goal of collecting more shoes for the program and their goal is to collect 15,000 pairs of used shoes in 2024.   

Honduras isn’t the only country the team at BioPed has been able to go to, to participate in the outreach through Soles4Souls. Boettcher says Kaufman has visited Haiti and the Domincan Republic with store manager, Scott Kaufman. She’s also been to Guatemala with clinician Tyler Ashurst in May of 2023. Just this past February, BioPed was represented by Ashurst and Josh Forsyth in the Dominican Republic.  

Boettcher says every time they come back home from these trips, they have a newfound appreciation of their focus on how to help the local community day to day.  

Boettcher says there are five modes of therapy available at BioPed for those in need of pain relief.   

“We do everything from foot care, including corns, calluses, diabetic feet, to custom orthotics for structure and support. We do lower limb bracing, ankle bracing, knee bracing, and we provide compression therapy, which is one of our main treatments. We use the graduated compression sock that just supports the veins in a subtle way versus a surgical intervention. And we provide a great supportive footwear.” 

Boettcher expanded on the usefulness of the compression sock, suggesting it can be used for people who are working in jobs where they may be on their feet all day.  

“They're giving those veins just a gentle kind of hug or squeeze so that the valves inside the veins continue to pump and are working efficiently. It's a great way to take care of swelling for more medical reasons but also taking care of tired achy legs.” 

Boettcher says that connection to helping people locally is the part she enjoys the most about her job but adds that connection to having a global reach reinforces the good that they are doing in the world. 

“Feet come and go, but it's making that connection and following through with the treatment to follow that patient through the other side of their pain. That's what does it for me.” 

If you have a story idea for “Rooted” send Matt an email at [email protected]  

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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