It started with an ambitious promise on Local 4's morning show.
In order to boost attendance at Detroit Public Schools, some local businessmen offered free Nike gym shoes to all high school students who spent the whole day in school on Count Day 2012.
Christian Dorsey and Jason Johnson run Bob's Classic Kicks in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood.
A year later, some parents contacted the Defenders wondering what ever happened to those free shoes? Among the disappointed parents is Victoria Griffin. Last year, her son was a senior at Detroit's Western International High School and he never received a pair of shoes.
"They made a promise to the students, that if you come to school this day. And they didn't keep their promise," said Griffin. "They didn't keep their commitment. So, that's not a good role model for the kids."
Detroit Public Schools shared Griffin's sentiments. The district released a statement that said: "DPS stressed the need for students to attend school every single day-- not just on Count Day-- and we know that incentives should never be the reason a child comes to school on any given day. However, we too are disappointed that a store owner last year publicized a large incentive of their own design and initiation and apparently did not follow through with that promise."
Looking For Answers
After a few phone calls trying to set up an interview, Defender Hank Winchester went to Bob's Classic Kicks to talk to the owners about what happened to the shoes they had promised Detroit high school students.
"A promise was made, and a promised wasn't fulfilled. True or false?" Winchester asked the men at their Midtown store.
Christian Dorsey answered, "A lot of promises are postponed. And, this promise had been postponed."
In fact, the men told Winchester that no students had received shoes by the time the Defenders started investigating. They said the campaign to fulfill that promise didn't go as expected. "The fundraiser went belly up. A lot of the guys we got together to help us put together the funds, they backed out on
us," they said.
The business owners said they were stunned by a negative reaction to their bold idea.
They said, "There was all kind of negative publicity. We got hate mail. We got death threats." They claim people went to posting blogs saying it is wrong to bribe students to go to school. They say the bad reaction scared off investors that might have been willing to help.
Defender Hank Winchester asked the men how they planned to raise the funds once the investors backed off. They had set up a website that was still taking donations into October of 2013. The Defenders made a $20 donation to that website on October 8th. Winchester repeatedly asked them how much money had been raised, and how the money was being used.
"What's happening with the money?" Winchester asked.
Johnson responded, "The money is still at Fifth Third Bank. It's still there."
While the men promised all the money was still in the bank, and none of the money had been spent, they would not discuss how much money was in the account, or give the Defenders any information to help them further investigate the website.
The week after the Defenders spoke with Dorsey and Johnson, they decided to change the website which had been taking donations.
Instead, they posted a letter apologizing for the campaign's shortcomings, and offered refunds to any donors who would send an email asking for their money back.
The letter to donors said in part, "We launched the effort in an Effort to Effect positive change, and are dismayed that we are now being attacked for out honest, although ineffective efforts. We assure you, however, that these failings were not borne of any bad faith or deceptive intent."
Nevertheless, the company said that it will refund any money it has received from donors. If you gave any money to the company, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting a refunds. The company said it will promptly replace the funds donated.
To view the entire letter they posted follow this link.