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A Ravenna Township teen has received a special gift that encourages him to fight cancer with his own two feet.
Andrew Spiker, a seventh-grader at Ravenna's Brown Middle School, was presented with customized footwear by Cleveland Heights artist Paul Codispoti. Codispoti is a volunteer with Peach's Neet Feet, an organization that seeks to encourage children with serious illnesses by giving them shoes celebrating what makes them unique. He calls the shoes "Andrew's magic shoes."
Codispoti said though he's painted about a dozen pairs of shoes for the group, Andrew is the first recipient in the region to receive a pair. Another child in Cleveland also recently received a pair of shoes shortly after Andrew did.
Andrew's shoes also were the first one Codispoti got to deliver in person.
Andrew, 13, was diagnosed with leukemia in January. He must undergo six months of intensive chemotherapy, and another three years of maintenance chemotherapy. Because of his high risk of infection, he has not been able to go to school since his diagnosis, and is instead receiving instruction from a tutor.
His black converse shoes celebrate his love of The Regular Show, a series on the Cartoon Network featuring the adventures of friends Mordecai and Rigby. Andrew watches the show regularly with his dad, Greg Spiker.
Codispoti confessed that he had to look up the show, since he had never heard of it.
The shoes also contain a peach, something included on every shoe painted by the group, and a butterfly, something Codispoti puts on every pair of shoes he paints for the group to symbolize rebirth and life.
"All he has to do is look down at his feet and realize that there's all these people who care about him," he said. "He's not just fighting this by himself."
Andrew's mother, Theresa, said her son's shoes were sponsored Heather Justice, a cousin whose 7-year-old son also is fighting leukemia. The Justice family lives in New Mexico, where Peach's Neet Feet was founded.
Along with the shoes is a card encouraging the family to "pay it forward" by sponsoring a pair of shoes for another child. It costs $40 to sponsor a pair of shoes, which defrays the cost of providing them.
Codispoti said Madison "Peach" Steiner formed the organization in 2011. Since then, 30 artists have joined the cause, painting shoes for children in treatment for pediatric cancer, lifelong major health issues and genetic disorders.
On a recent evening, the Spiker family, which also includes Andrew's brother, Luke, welcomed Codispoti and his wife. Grandparents Janice and Dennis DePompei watched as Andrew tried on the shoes for the first time.
"He's my hero," Andrew's grandmother said.
The shoes fit perfectly, and Andrew's mom said it was a good thing they did.
"He doesn't have any other shoes," she said, explaining that the boy's other footwear is either worn out or too small. "He didn't want to get them because he knew he was getting these."
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139