Parkersburg South High School students enjoy Christmas gift

Photo Provided Tanner Powell painted designs on sneakers and gave them to special needs students at Parkersburg South High School before the Christmas break.

PARKERSBURG — Students, families and teachers appreciate the kindness of Tanner Powell.

Just before the Christmas break, Powell, a senior at Parkersburg South High School, presented some special needs students with sneakers she decorated according to what the students like.

Sneakers were painted with designs of a basketball, LEGOs, Xbox, SpongeBob and Patrick and an aquarium, for example.

Powell, 18, of Belleville explained how the sneaker project developed.

“The sneaker project originally came to mind when I decided I wanted to do something for the special needs children at South. For four years I’ve worked with them and I’ve loved every single minute of it,” Powell said.

Photo Provided Basketballs

“I wanted to show them I cared. In my spare time I found myself in their classrooms just enjoying each second,” Powell said.

“There was one child in particular that sparked the idea; his name is Ethan. Every time I wore my Vans or Converse he always said how much he loved them. So I wanted to give them just that, comfortable durable shoes that I loved just as much as they would,” Powell said.

Powell used donations from Belleville Baptist Church, along with her money and money from her family, to purchase seven pairs of sneakers for seven boys at Parkersburg South High School.

“I made a chart with the size of shoe, their favorite things to do, and their favorite color. Interviewing each kid I filled out the chart and used that to paint the shoes myself,” Powell said.

Powell received help from her neighbor Mandy Joyce in painting the sneakers.

Photo Provided Aquarium

It took Powell about three hours over two days to complete the seven shoes.

She wrapped each gift at her house and gave the students their package on Dec. 21.

Powell said she is happy that her sneaker project has made people smile — describing it as a gift that kept on giving.

The smiles on the kids faces were “absolutely heart warming,” she said.

Parkersburg South special education teacher Shaun Smith described Powell’s efforts as “pretty cool.”

Photo Provided SpongeBob SquarePants

“The kids enjoyed it. They were excited to get a gift before Christmas,” Smith said.

Phillip Cinalli, an autistic student, likes to “shoot baskets” in the Parkersburg South High gym so Powell painted basketballs on his sneakers, Smith noted.

Tammy Cinalli, Phillip’s mother, said she was honored and thrilled that Powell would take the time to create a gift for Phillip. Phillip likes the sneakers a lot, she said.

Tammy said the students, teachers and aides in Wood County Schools have been kind to Phillip, who is 18 years old.

Tammy was excited to learn that Powell plans to enter the occupational therapy field.

Powell said she recently received an acceptance letter from West Virginia University to study occupational therapy.

“I’d love to keep working with autistic children,” she said. Powell is the daughter of Christi and Bob Virtue of Belleville.