By STEVEN NALLEY
Four students came to Reedâs of Starkville all the way from French Camp Academy to discover the contents of the TOMS mystery box Tuesday, and their excitement was palpable in the moments leading to the box opening.
Michaela Parker, Kat Witt, Kraeidra Cork and Jalya Robertson all wore matching TOMS tie-dye T-shirts they made themselves for TOMSâ âOne Day Without Shoesâ event. They also wore official TOMS shoes, and Parker and Witt had decorated those shoes with colorful paintings.
âItâs all Iâve been talking about for days,â Parker said.
Robertson said, âWe rushed over here after we ate to get here in time.â
âItâs just so awesome; I canât stop smiling,â Witt said.
Reedâs was one of 90 locations across America where TOMS unveiled a new line of sunglasses called TOMS Eyewear to benefit those in need of vision care.
The sunglasses are the newest addition to the âOne for Oneâ model TOMS has used to give one pair of its shoes away to a child who has none for every pair of shoes it sells. This time, instead of giving a pair of sunglasses away, TOMS will give medical treatment, prescription glasses or sight-saving surgery to one person for every pair of sunglasses sold. Prices for each pair range from $135 to $145.
Before TOMS representative Anya Farquhar opened the box, she showed the dozens of people gathered at Reedâs a video featuring TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie explaining the rationale behind this new direction. The video also showed several of the efforts TOMS has already made to bring vision care to children and others in Nepal.
âWhen I thought about expanding the TOMS model, vision was the first thing I thought about,â Mycoskie said in the video. âI think whatâs really important is to understand how powerful it is to give sight to someone in need.â
Farquhar then opened the cylindrical mystery box to reveal a display for the glasses, followed by a second cardboard box full of the first real shipment of the sunglasses for Reedâs. She brought the audienceâs attention to the frame design, which features a solid color near the ears, designer patterns such as wood or leopard spots on the rest of the rims, and a stripe in between.
âThis is you,â Farquhar said, pointing to the designer pattern. âThis is the fashion that you choose. The part in the back represents the child youâre helping, and the band in the middle represents the tie between you.â
Farquhar said she learned the boxâs contents just a day before opening it, and it was easier for her to keep the secret than it was for others who have worked on the project for the past three years. Her emotions, she said, werenât as easy to contain.
âThe first time I watched the video, I teared up,â Farquhar said. âI think itâs going to make a difference to a lot of people. Iâve met a few of those kids, and I feel like every kid has a story.â
Farquhar said she was impressed with the turnout, the number of people wearing TOMS shoes already in Starkville and the amount of sunglasses sold Tuesday. She said she does not know exactly how Reedâs of Starkville became a Mystery Box location, but it is clear to her Starkville is a hotbed of TOMS support.
âFrom what Iâve heard, you guys have done an amazing job making TOMS popular,â Farquhar said.
It has yet to be determined, Farquhar said, whether TOMS Eyewear will eventually also include designer frames for prescription glasses. Also to be determined, Reedâs Starkville Manager Bo Summerford said, is whether Reedâs will be able to distribute the sunglasses to its other locations in Columbus and Tupelo before their wider release in October.
âAll I can say is, âWow,ââ Summerford said. âI had no thought of you actually being able to buy one product and give something so pertinent to someone in need.â
Leading up to the event, visitors to all Reedâs locations could submit guesses to the Mystery Boxâs contents for the chance to win a 20 percent discount on the productâs price. Out of more than 100, only two guessed correctly: Elizabeth Kemp from Tupelo and Beverly Smitherman from Starkville. Smitherman, owner of Cachet Designs Salon, said she submitted her guess minutes before Farquhar opened the box, and it felt amazing to win. Smitherman used her discount immediately â twice.
âIâm going to wear a pair and then have a fund-raiser with the other pair,â Smitherman said.â