About Those Shoes

by Todd Nissen

Partner, The Vella Group
Published On: April 24, 2024Categories: Insights

How an Unexpected Gift Became a Hit at a Formal Fundraising Gala

Fr. Tim McCabe says Angela Vann has more shoes than Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines known for her famous footwear collection.

Vann, who is the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church in Detroit, doesn’t disagree she loves shoes. Which is what gave her the idea to make sure Fr. Tim had what he needed when the Pope Francis Center said sneakers would be welcome at this year’s annual Building Bridges Gala.

Fr. Tim is president and CEO of the Pope Francis Center, a Detroit nonprofit that provides food and services to people experiencing homelessness. He is also filling in as interim priest at Sacred Heart.

The Building Bridges Gala was held April 11 at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. Kicking field goals on the turf was one of the fundraising activities at the event.

“I told him — ‘I’m getting you some Chucks,’” said Vann. “He said ‘Really?’ I said, ‘I got you.’”

Vann visited the Converse website where people can submit custom shoe designs. What she came up with could do as well on a mural as a pair of trainers. There is blue for the Virgin Mary. There are red hearts for their church in downtown Detroit not far from the city’s Eastern Market.

Father Tim McCabe showing his custom Converse sneakers at Pope Francis Center Building Bridges Gala

Fr. Tim McCabe Shows His Custom Sneakers to Gala Guests. Image Credit: Charlotte Smith

Angela Vann and Fr. Tim McCabe at the Pope Francis Center Gala

From L-R: Angela Vann, Fr. Tim McCabe and Arnold Vann

And there is an image of a Black youth on a street corner listening to music. Sacred Heart calls itself “The Mother Church of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit.”  Fr. Tim often discusses racial topics in his sermons and doesn’t shy from raising hard questions about racism in the U.S., said Vann.

The picture struck Vann as something Fr. Tim would celebrate.  “It said everything. The boy is sitting on a stoop, headphones on. It just resonated cool for me,” she said.

Soon the shoes were on their way. When Vann presented them, Fr. Tim was so surprised he blushed.

“I wanted him to know how much I love him and appreciate him, and how Sacred Heart loves him so much,” said Vann.

Amid hundreds of colorful shoes that evening, Fr. Tim’s custom sneakers stood out, and he recounted their origin story from the stage after modeling them for the crowd.

“Amazing — thank you, Angela,” said Fr. Tim.

As for Vann, who was at her first Building Bridges Gala, she is already thinking of the future. “I’ll be his shoe person from now on,” she said. “I’ll be the shoe designer for Fr. Tim and the Pope Francis Center.”

The Pope Francis Center later announced the organization had raised a record $1.7 million in donations from the event.

Featured Image Credit: Charlotte Smith

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