Journey of the (Bombas) Socks

Written By Avery Cesar

You may have heard of them, you may have seen them, and you might even be wearing them at this very moment. Bombas socks are not only leaders in comfort but also leaders in many communities like our own Multnomah County. They show other businesses what giving back truly means, especially at this time of year when cold weather affects many in our community.

Socks, although overlooked by many, are the most requested item by homeless shelters across the nation. Bombas socks are specially equipped with antimicrobial treatment to prevent the growth of bacteria and reinforced seams to prevent and hide wear; these socks are built to last, making the most out of every pair. What the foundation did not expect, was 3,200 pairs of these socks now in their hands. Overwhelmed by the generous donation, foundation director Lisa Bendt said it was now an exciting challenge to distribute all the socks into the city. Where can you simply drop off 3,200 pairs of socks?

Steve and Sharon Tillet, Bombas giving partners in Portland, were connected to the Multnomah Athletic Foundation, providing socks for the foundation to donate. This is where the socks’ journey began. Dr. Steve Tillet is a pediatrist who sees many homeless patients. Noticing that many of his patients needed clean socks and new shoes, he kept a box with spares of both in his office to hand out. After hearing about Bombas’ “One Purchased = One Donated” business model, he wanted to elevate his sock service to the next level. “The first year it was just maybe a few hundred, and the second year it was a few thousand, and this year we got ten thousand socks to give away!” said Sharon Tillet, who plays an integral role in the distribution process. As a part of their mission to provide socks for the community to pay it forward and distribute even further, the Tillets generously donated 3,200 of the socks to the foundation.

A frequent destination for these socks was in clothes closets for schools across the Portland area, including some involved in the foundation’s MAC Scholar-Athlete program. Lauren Han, a MAC Scholar-Athlete, is a tennis player and the defending OSAA State Champion. She sought opportunities to combine her passion for sports and helping others out. When presented with the chance to donate Bombas socks, Han was eager to help out her high school’s clothing drive. Different from other typical drives, Clackamas High School Key Club sets up a store called the Winter Blitz for over 500 families to come in and get items for the holidays. Bags of Bombas were able to reach many schools this year through MAF Scholar-Athletes like Han.

In another field of the community, the socks reached the Portland Community Football Club (PCFC). This soccer club, featured in December’s issue of the Winged M, is on a mission to level the playing field for athletes who are unable to afford the expensive costs of playing at a high level, as some clubs demand thousands annually from their players. Providing uniforms for free is just one of the ways PCFC helps its players receive the same opportunities as other clubs offer.

CEO and founder Kaig Lightner, Operations Manager Jerika Ferguson, and the rest of PCFC help their athletes on and off the field by providing clothing and supplies for soccer, school, and any other needs that must be met. The socks were distributed to players and their families at their family gathering event, as well as kept for new players as they join the club. “As a nonprofit, we are supported by donations and grants,” Ferguson says, “the support of in-kind donations like those from Bombas help support our ability to provide services and resources to our PCFC families.” The MAF is fortunate to work with organizations like the PCFC, helping kids and families achieve their goals in sports and communities.

The final stop on the sock’s journey was to Special Olympics Oregon. I have had the privilege of volunteering for the organization in the past, so upon hearing about the socks that the foundation received, I submitted their name to receive a portion of the Bombas socks. I hand-delivered the socks to Mark Hanken, the Chief Operating Officer of Special Olympics Oregon. He and his staff were delighted to receive Bombas socks and excited at the opportunity to greater support their athletes more. “These could definitely outfit a few basketball teams,” Hanken said about where the socks would go.

This holiday season, Bombas Socks made a journey throughout our Multnomah community, but not only that, it created stronger ties as Portlandians were able to connect further with one another. What started as two people who wanted to give back, the Tillets were in shock at the socks’ successful circulation: “It was amazing, the more people we talked to the more need that we found!” said Sharon.  Lauren Han and other scholar-athletes were able to connect with their school community by donating socks in a time of great need. Personally, through the simple action of donating socks, I was able to reconnect with an organization I haven’t been able to since the pandemic began. The socks made a journey that has reached over 3,000 Portland citizens, and the journey strengthened the seams that hold this community together.