Bullied for His Kicks, This 14-Year-Old Started a Charity That Gives Shoes to People in Need
Kyler Nipper is the founder of the nonprofit Kyler's Kicks, which recently donated its 25,000th pair.
Kyler Nipper looks at his collections of shoes — hundreds of sneakers, sandals and slip-ons — with pride and amazement. At 14, he never thought he'd have this many kicks, piled so high in boxes and racks that they smush against the ceiling of his small storage unit. He knows his hoard so well that he can immediately rattle off any pair's size, brand and origin with just a glimpse. He's become what some might call a shoe expert.
But they're not even his to keep.
He's giving them all away.
This teen is the founder of the nonprofit Kyler's Kicks. When he's not doing his schoolwork or spending time with his family at home in Las Vegas, he's organizing new and used shoes that are sent to him, scrubbing them clean and assuring they make it into the hands of people in need in his community — whether that's someone who is homeless, someone living on a low income or someone who needs a new pair of shoes and just can't afford to buy them.
Sitting among towering stacks of shoe boxes in his small storage unit, Kyler told InsideEdition.com, "Kindness is like the best thing in the world."
Kindness is what Kyler is all about. He likes to say that people can't just "tell people to be kind, we have to show it, too." And show he does. In the three years he's been running Kyler's Kicks, he's given away more than 25,000 pairs of shoes to kids and adults all across Las Vegas.
Kyler is spending his spare time meticulously organizing bright blue tennis shoes into plastic bags and separating matte leather high heels by size because he's on a mission.
"It makes me feel better that I give away shoes, because I have been through it," he said. "It made me make sure that what happened to me wasn't happening to anybody else."
And what happened to him ... nearly killed him.
When Kyler was 11 years old, he experienced what his mom, Sherise Nipper, describes as "the worst day of our lives." A bully stabbed him in the chest, Kyler said, because of his shoes.
"Kyler has an Achilles tendon deformation, and it causes him to walk on his tippy toes ... which causes the front part of his shoes to crack, break, be ruined by the second day he wears them," Nipper said.
She explained that "Kyler was bullied over his shoes regularly" because of this.
"It made me feel depressed and sad and angry," Kyler said. "The first thing I thought was, 'Where can I get some new shoes and how can I get new shoes with my family being able to afford them?' Because at that time ... we were just barely scraping by."
The bullying escalated to the point of violence when Kyler was in middle school, Nipper said. "Oct. 7th, 2016. We thought we lost Kyler on that day."
A young boy in Kyler's school allegedly stabbed Kyler in the chest with a sharp pencil in the hallway. His lung collapsed, leaving the then-sixth grader unable to breathe. He laid on the ground of his school waiting for care until his mother arrived, Nipper said.
"I could never describe what it felt like to look up my son completely blue in the face and lifeless," Nipper said.
She rushed Kyler in her own car to the hospital, where doctors told her he was critically injured. He was whisked into emergency surgery and kept on a ventilator, Nipper said, for three of the longest days of her life.
"I will never forget the feeling of, come on baby, just breathe, just breathe, just breathe," she said. "I never thought I would see Kyler breathe again. I never thought I would hear his voice again."
Nipper was only able to take a breath of relief on Oct. 9, when Kyler was finally able to breathe on his own. His first thought after waking up? He couldn't let what happened to him happen to anyone else.
"Since he woke up from the surgery. … All Kyler could think about was giving out shoes. He was talking about giving out shoes before he even left the hospital," Nipper said.
However, while Kyler was able to go home with his parents, the family was forced up against another devastating hurdle.
"Our family lost everything when Kyler was stabbed. … It became a huge expense of almost $2,000 a month just on Kyler's medical expenses," she said.
Kyler's parents were forced to choose between paying for Kyler's care and their home. They chose his care. To compensate, the family moved from motel to motel so they'd have a place to sleep. They eventually moved into an emergency housing shelter that provides them a one-room apartment at a reduced rate.
"The one thing that most people don't understand is this 14-year-old boy doesn't even have his own bed to sleep in at night," Nipper said. "We're in an emergency housing shelter. ... It makes it a lot more difficult for Kyler. He sleeps on a little love seat that his feet hang off of every night."
Despite being in the same place as many of those he helps, Kyler stays focused on his mission of lending a hand — or a shoe — where it is needed most.
"Every morning, the first thing he thinks about is getting up and giving more to others. And to me, that's just the most beautiful part of this whole story," Nipper said, holding back tears.
"This heals me," Kyler said of his dedication to his company. That's because he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since that day in the hallway.
"It's the nightmares, the flashbacks, the everyday PTSD struggle is real. Man, it's real," Nipper said. "He didn't want to come out the apartment. He didn't want to talk to anybody. He was scared of his own shadow."
But Kyler realized that it was when he focused his energy into organizing shoes by size, steaming stains from dirty sneakers and measuring a child's foot for new school shoes that he felt better.
"He replaces the negative feelings with positive feelings of giving things out. It's his way of communicating past the pain," Nipper said. "Without these shoes, Kyler wouldn't make it through. These shoes help Kyler just as much as they help the people he gives them to."
Just before heading out to wash his donated shoes at a local cleaning shop, Kyler said confidently, "I turned a bad thing into a good thing."
And his mom agrees, recognizing the larger impact of his work.
"Kyler's Kicks is not only a kindness movement, but it's a healing movement," she said proudly.
InsideEdition.com was there when Kyler donated his 25,000th pair of shoes. He hosted a giveaway at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, "the main place that everybody feels safe at," he said. Kyler and other volunteers spent a hot, sunny weekday unloading a truckload of shoes onto folding tables in the courtyard for people to come shop for new kicks. Throngs of shoppers crowded around the tables, searching for specific sizes, colors and styles.
"Oh my gosh, the need is huge," Nipper said, explaining that the shoes Kyler takes to a giveaway often "run out before the line even comes through."
And, of course, Kyler was right there in the midst of them. If a man needed a size 11 walking shoe, he knew exactly which table and which pile to ransack to find just the right one. And if a woman needed a pair of black flats, size 8, to wear to work, he'd walk off and quickly get a few options for her to choose from.
He takes great care in making sure each person is happy, comfortable and taken care of.
Including one woman who walked away with a black pair of Sketchers walking shoes — Kyler's Kicks' 25,000th pair donated.
"That's the 25,000th pair of shoes," Kyler told her with a warm smile.
"And I really appreciate that. And I'm gonna put 25,000 miles on them," she said as the two posed for a sweet picture.
"Just to think that there's 25,000 people walking around that didn't have shoes that have shoes now, off of the most horrible day in our family's life, it's just so beautiful. It's like a field of flowers have finally grown from the ashes," Nipper said.
And it's one flip-flop, one sandal at a time that Kyler is spreading kindness and giving back dignity.
"They're nice," one man said as he tried on a pair of red and neon yellow sneakers. "I can't wear heavy shoes because of my Grave's disease. These are very light and my legs won't get tired as fast."
And for him, the shoes he was taking home meant so much more beyond their functionality. Picking up the shoes he walked to Las Vegas Rescue Mission in, he said, "These, someone gave me yesterday, you know, I gotta give them back. But now I got my own pair."
One woman found some colorful Skechers to match her bright floral dress, saying she feels "blessed" to be going home with them.
As his giveaway neared the end, Kyler spent some time with perhaps his most enthusiastic shoppers. A father walked into the courtyard with his four children, some of them barefoot, looking for some shoes to cover their little feet.
Kyler took it upon himself to outfit the youngest toddler with a pair that would be big enough for him to grow into but not so large that he would walk out of them. One by one, he sifted through the piles of kids' shoes, finding tiny sneakers to hold up to the boy's foot to measure.
Some were too big, he determined. One possibility had been separated from its match, he said.
Finally, he found just the right pair, smiling with the boy's dad as they celebrated the victory.
Though the older kids had easier times finding shoes that fit them, they were no less excited. The older boy, in sweatpants and a track jacket, jumped up and down with a bright smile spreading across his face, his new kicks thumping on the ground with each leap.
"Dad, look!" he yelled, claiming the new sneakers made him jump higher.
"What do you say? Say 'thank you' to Kyler," the dad replied.
As the tables folded back up and the shoppers dispersed, Kyler was able to finally take a breath after a long day. Even though the teen was ready to collapse into his bed and relax, he hadn't lost sight of what keeps Kyler's Kicks going every day.
"We're spreading positivity and kindness along the way. So that to me is a success," he said.
And for Nipper, who can't believe what her son has accomplished at such a young age, "It feels amazing to watch him be so selfless," she said. "But more important, it feels amazing to see him healing."
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