Marquez Beeks (now better known as Ay Quez) began gifting brand new pairs of shoes to Rockford students in 2017. It all began simply because he had a love for shoes growing up and knew that other kids did as well.
“One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was give back to my community. Kids need role models and I felt like I could do something,” he said.
Quez had the idea of gifting shoes to kids to promote positive behavior while at Fayetteville State University. When he returned home to Rockford, Illinois, he took action, creating a non-profit organization and naming it ‘Touching Soles.’
Quez once roamed the halls of West Middle School as a student, in 2017 he returned to make an impact on kids who may need some guidance. Making an impact is exactly what he did. He may have only gave away 2 pairs of shoes in his debut, but he connected with an auditorium full of students.
“I got the chance to go into the auditorium and speak to the kids, afterwards they had a chance to come up and give me high-five’s and give me hugs. One of the kids came up to me and told me he wanted to be like me. That’s great, but I told him he could be better. You can always better, you can always improve yourself. I’m still learning that at 25.” Quez told Culture Shock’s Luke Blaunka.
Touching Soles has evolved quite a bit since it’s debut. In 2018 Quez was filmed giving away shoes in Kishwaukee College’s Upward Bound Program and also made stops at Kennedy Middle School and Rockford’s Environmental Science Academy. His speeches seemed much more polished since his debut at West. He spoke on positivity, overcoming obstacles, and even shared his own role models.
When asked about Touching Soles’ goals for the future, Quez stated; “Our mission for Touching Soles is to promote financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy to the youth.”
In much simpler terms, Marquez Beeks is doing what he can to help the younger generation bet on themselves.