Michael Greenberg and Skechers USA partner to help kids with disabilities
You could say Michael Greenberg, president and cofounder of Skechers USA,
has always been inspired to help children with different needs—likely
because he knows firsthand how life-changing friendships can be for them.
Sitting in his Manhattan Beach office last week, Greenberg shared a story
from when he was 9 years old in Massachusetts.
“In the third grade, a teacher asked me to help take kids around.
I had the opportunity to assist children with special needs get [from]
class to class. It was eye-opening for me. I’ve never forgotten
And then 11 years ago, when he and friend Rabbi Yossi Mintz chatted about
Mintz’s new Redondo Beach-based Friendship Circle—which provides
buddies and fun outings for kids who live with challenges—Greenberg
also thought back to his elementary years and immediately wanted to help.
“Being a buddy [with a child with disabilities] creates empathy
and it’s fun,” he says.
Mintz and Greenberg discussed ways to raise money to expand the services
of the fledgling Friendship Circle (now The Friendship Foundation) while
also providing money to local schools hit hard by the recession. From
that desire, the first Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk debuted in
2009. It had nearly 2,000 participants and raised $220,000 for Friendship
Circle and local public school education foundations.
“It’s overwhelming to see how it has grown. To date we’ve
raised over $11 million with more than 70,000 participants since that
first Friendship Walk,” Greenberg explains.
And it keeps growing each year. To put it into perspective, last year’s
walk alone generated $510,000 for The Friendship Foundation and more than
$1 million for education foundations. At the walk Greenberg announced
the continuation of its annual Skechers Foundation Scholarship Program,
awarding $100,000 in college scholarships during the 2018–2019 school year.
“It’s the largest walk of its kind in the nation, with 14,000
to 15,000 people who show up to walk. It’s so unique too because
it is community-driven and resonates with families on such a profound
level. We are grateful for the community involvement and the many national
sponsors like Nickelodeon,” he adds.
It’s become the event to attend in the South Bay with its now-famous
pumpkin races, celebrity entertainment and stars who participate, including
Brooke Burke, Sugar Ray Leonard, Denise Austin and Tommy Lasorda.
As the Friendship Walk has expanded, so too has The Friendship Foundation,
which benefits from proceeds from the walk. The Friendship Foundation
has grown exponentially from its early days when it offered one program
per month. It now hosts more than 13 after-school programs weekly, with
more than 40 club meetings on school campuses every week.
“The [Friendship] Foundation now helps over 600 families with special
needs children and has more than 1,200 volunteers,” Greenberg says.
The stated purpose of The Friendship Foundation is to “bring happiness
and companionship to children with special needs in a way that celebrates
their uniqueness and individuality.” This foundation assists challenged
families by seeking out activities for children who may have a hard time
bridging friendships at school.
Greenberg, who has become friends with some of the children in these programs,
says he recently attended one child’s birthday party at a local
pizza parlor where there were more than 20 friends in attendance. “This
kid was so happy and has so many friends! It’s remarkable to see.”
Clearly The Friendship Foundation is living up to its goals to “foster
the values of altruism, volunteerism and sacrifice among student volunteers”
and to “heighten the community’s awareness, sensitivity and
sense of responsibility.”
Greenberg says the friendship clubs within local schools like Mira Costa
High School have become overwhelmingly popular with students. “They
can be hard to join because so many kids apply! The students get to take
their buddies to Dodgers games, Kings games. It’s great for these
kids to be able to go to these places with buddies and to feel [they are]
a part of the community.”
The Friendship Foundation also offers summer activities and nine weeks
of various camps, including their own Camp Got Friends. Scholarships are
available to those in need. Participants of The Friendship Foundation
services can be as young as 5 years old, and volunteers must be at least
8 years old. For more information go to
Looking to the Future
In 2010 Skechers created the Skechers Foundation (which also benefits from
proceeds from the Pier to Pier Walk) to invest in organizations assisting
families and communities in need, as well as to provide college scholarships.
Robin Curren, executive director of the Skechers Foundation, explains
the foundation invests in a variety of organizations dedicated to “improving
education and empowering disadvantaged youth.”
In an exciting announcement after last year’s walk, Greenberg says
the foundation plans to award more than a dozen $1,000 to $5,000 scholarships
to deserving students nationwide based on financial need, academic performance,
athletic abilities and leadership qualities.
“The Friendship Walk has supported an entire generation of youth—from
elementary kids who are just starting out to 20-somethings who are now
making an impact on the world,” Greenberg said after the 2018 walk.
“To see the difference this community has made in the past 10 years
for children is beautiful. It’s something incredible.”
It is inspiring to see how a dream to help local children and schools in
need has blossomed to inspire so many—near and far—to reach
their potential by helping others do the same.
WHEN: October 25, 2020
WHERE: Starts at Manhattan Beach Pier; participants walk to the Hermosa
Beach Pier and return to the Manhattan Beach Pier—3.5 miles
REGISTRATION: $30 online and $35 in person day of the race; registration
tables open at 8 a.m. on-site To register, join a team of walkers or become
a sponsor, go to