Griner was inspired after driving home from practice, as she kept seeing homeless Arizonians living without shoes in the summer. Initially, she started by simply driving “around with shoes in her trunk in case she saw someone in need.” This idea expanded into “the Mercury organization establishing a shoe drive, engaging its X-Factor fan base and BG’s teammates, and partnering with local non-profit Phoenix Rescue Mission,” reports Our Sports Central.
Years later, this has grown to include donation bins around the city, where the drive “collect[s] new and gently used shoes for unhoused individuals in the community” throughout the WNBA season, which last until September.
Her community work was even cited by the U.S. Senate after she was infamously detained in Russia after being arrested for possessing trace amounts of cannabis oil. During her detention, a Senate Resolution was introduced in 2022 urging the Russian government to release Griner, reading in part, “Whereas Brittney Griner has made a difference in the lives of many Arizonans, including through her annual ‘’BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive’, which has provided shoes to nearly 2,000 people who are experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix area.”
While she was in Russia, Griner’s charitable endeavors never ceased, thanks in part to Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, who ensured that BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive continued in her absence.
The 2022 “campaign collected 3,400 pairs of new and gently used shoes—more than the first four years of the campaign combined. BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive also raised more than $30,000 for critical resources for Phoenix Rescue Mission,” according to ABC.
Kaesi Carroll with the Phoenix Rescue Mission said, “It’s been super helpful with people living on the streets who are homeless,” adding “We can take the shoes to them.”
Griner’s continued good works have not gone unnoticed, and this summer, the WNBA announced that the Phoenix Mercury center was once again the recipient of the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award.
Upon learning the news, Griner said, “I’m grateful to receive the community assist award and even happier to be able to donate the award money to causes that mean a great deal to me: Phoenix Rescue Mission, my partner in my annual shoe drive, and Bring Our Families Home, an organization close to my heart that is advocating for the safe return of American hostages abroad.”
“Thank you to all the fans in Phoenix and league-wide who joined me in supporting these causes by donating shoes or writing letters. My commitment will continue to be helping those who are struggling and shining a light on wrongfully detained Americans who should be home with their families,” said Griner.