The man who invented a shoe that can be extended to fit growing feet for people living in poverty was awarded “Innovator of the Year” last week.
Kenton Lee of Nampa, whose nonprofit Because International provides the shoes to groups that distribute them all over the world, said he was surprised and honored by the award.
“While we try to be pretty unassuming people and just do our work, this is a good chance to toot our horn a bit, because it does spread our word about what we’re doing, because it’s something we want to do,” Lee said.
The Idaho Innovation Awards are presented by the Boise law firm Stoel Rives in partnership with the Idaho Technology Council. It is the 11th year for the program, which gives awards to people in five categories: commercialized innovation, early stage innovation, consumer product, innovative company and innovator.
A team of 35 business professionals from around the state considers nominations and picks three winners, explained Michelle Webberley, manager of the Idaho Innovation Awards and Stoel Rives’ business development coordinator.
“From what I gathered at the committee, they just thought this was a neat and innovative technology,” Webberley said of Lee’s shoe. “When they thought of the innovator of the year, they thought Kenton was innovative to start a nonprofit on his own and come up with an idea like that.”
Lee started researching how to design a shoe that can be extended to fit a child’s growing foot after a trip to an orphanage in Kenya. Providing a sturdy, leather shoe that can be extended for about five sizes helps ensure more children’s feet are covered in the poorest parts of the world.