Topeka native and hip-hop artist "T-Rell," born Terrell Terry, was shopping with his son at Walmart earlier this year when he filmed a video that went viral.
"We went shopping," T-Rell said, "and I bought him a pair of Walmart shoes. I said (in the video), 'Man, my kids don't really care about Jordans and high-end fashion. They care about who they see on TV.' I said, 'My son's never seen Michael Jordan dunk a ball, but he's seen Spider-Man save a whole town.' "
T-Rell's video got more than 10 million views in just a few weeks. That is when the artist realized he wanted to make more than just his son happy with new shoes. He wanted to put smiles on hundreds of kids' faces.
"I was like, 'Man I want to make a lot of kids happy with these shoes,' " he said. "So I went to Walmart and bought all these shoes, and I want to give them away free."
T-Rell bought 300 pairs of new shoes — many with Disney characters or superheroes on them — from Walmart. He then stood outside the Walmart on S.W. Wanamaker on Wednesday afternoon to give those shoes away to families and children in need.
"It's dope seeing the kids' faces, their smiles," T-Rell said. "They really know these characters. They really love them."
T-Rell wanted to give shoes away the day before Thanksgiving because he figured lots of families would be out shopping for food.
Desirae Keeling happened to be at the Walmart on Wanamaker with her mother Wednesday afternoon, and T-Rell's generosity brought her to tears.
Keeling said she saw a post about the shoe giveaway on Facebook but thought it was too good to be true.
"I didn't think it was real and then happened to come to town with my mom, and I saw it and wanted to check it out," Keeling said.
The single mother got to take home two pairs of new sneakers for her boys.
"It helps a lot," she said. "Day care is ridiculously expensive, so it takes a lot."
T-Rell said his effort is all about seeing kids smile and about giving back to his hometown.
"It means a lot. It's a blessing," T-Rell said. "Especially because I'm blessed to be able to travel and tour and stuff like that, it's great to be able to come back home and help out."
T-Rell has been making music for about five years. The rapper, who signed a record deal last year with Grammy Award-winning artist Nelly, said giving back is something he hopes the young people who follow him remember. And he hopes it inspires similar generosity from others.
"I've done a lot in my career that they can see," T-Rell said, "but doing this is the most important part."