Texas shoe brand gives heroes with prosthetics the freedom to wear flip-flops
Texas-based premium sandal company Hari Mari has launched a new initiative that fits perfectly with the brand's socially conscious ethos: providing U.S. military and first responders with flip-flops designed specifically for prosthetic legs.
Called Freedom Flops, they're made with a removable backstrap, allowing wearers to keep the straps in tact to fit their prosthetic limbs.
The first batch of 50 Freedom Flops was produced and given to amputees in Dallas-Fort Worth.
While the special sandals are not yet available for purchase, anyone can use the website to register someone they know who could use a pair of Freedom Flops. A Hari Mari spokeswoman says they'll be placing a shipment soon for those who've been registered. There is no cost to the registrant or the recipient.
The company plans to receive shipments quarterly, to start, and depending on how quickly the program takes off, they will look into additional deliveries and/or keeping them in stock permanently, she says.
“It's beyond gratifying to do something for a group of incredibly brave men and women who have done so much for us and our country,” says Hari Mari founder Jeremy Stewart in a release. “We will never be able to convey our full gratitude and appreciation for their service and sacrifice, but my wife, Lila, and I hope Hari Mari's Freedom Flops initiative serves as a meaningful start.”
Corporal Jacob Schick, CEO of 22Kill and an amputee, is serving as Hari Mari’s ambassador for the program. After a triple-stacked tank mine detonated below his vehicle in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in 2004, Schick suffered fractures in his left arm and leg, skin and ligament bone losses, burns, partial loss of his left hand and arm, and amputation below the knee of his right leg.
Before the incident, Schick wore flip-flops all the time, he says, but once he was fitted for his prosthetic leg, the veteran lost the freedom to wear flip-flops. His story served as the inspiration for Hari Mari's prosthetic-friendly product.
“The Freedom Flops program has given me the freedom to wear flip-flops again," Schick says. "Hari Mari is the epitome of a company that’s proof you don’t have to wear a uniform to serve.”
To kick off the program, the company recently hosted a cookout to honor the inaugural Freedom Flops recipients, more than 50 Dallas-Fort Worth-based veterans and first responders. Hari Mari presented them with their own pair of custom flops and aimed to spread awareness of the initiative, with the hope to locate future recipients.
Stewart and his wife, Lila, launched Hari Mari in Dallas in 2012. It quickly became known not only for its colorful and comfy flip-flops, but for its philanthropic mission. The company donates 1 percent of every pair of flip-flops sold to help those battling pediatric cancer, through the campaign Flops Fighting Cancer.
In seven years, Hari Mari flip-flops have become a favorite of celebrities, vacationers, and everyday casual dressers.
The Stewarts started the brand after spending time in Indonesia, where they both worked on projects that benefited children there. Jeremy made a documentary about helping hungry kids, while Lila volunteered in orphanages.
Hari Mari means "of the sun, of the sea" in Indonesian and Latin, respectively.