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Local teen makes and sells dog treats to provide new shoes for others

Mitchell Richison of Apollo Beach uses the profits of his dog treat business to buy new shoes for kids in need. Titus O'Neil helped Mitchell get started.
WWE wrestler Titus O'Neil gave 13-year-old Mitchell Richison new shoes to donate to kids in need. Richison is selling dog treats to purchase new shoes for kids as "back to school gifts."
WWE wrestler Titus O'Neil gave 13-year-old Mitchell Richison new shoes to donate to kids in need. Richison is selling dog treats to purchase new shoes for kids as "back to school gifts." [ Courtesy of Angie Frey-Richison ]
Published Aug. 18, 2020|Updated Aug. 18, 2020

Mitchell Richison’s entrepreneurial spirit is matched by his generous one.

In the fifth grade, Mitchell and his friend Tyler Blackwell created a dog treat business for a school assignment. Richwell Treats was so successful that they kept the business going. Now about to enter the eighth grade, Mitchell runs the business by himself, using the money to buy himself things.

13-year-old Mitchell Richison makes and sells dog treats to purchase new shoes for kids as "back to school gifts."
13-year-old Mitchell Richison makes and sells dog treats to purchase new shoes for kids as "back to school gifts." [ Courtesy of Angie Frey-Richison ]

But when the pandemic hit, he immediately started thinking of ways to help others.

“I knew that people were losing jobs and they aren’t able to buy kids things they want,” Mitchell said.

His first idea happened when he was cleaning out his closet and thought that he could clean up pairs of his shoes and donate them to kids in need.

“I’m so proud that he has a huge heart and was concerned about people,” his mom, Angie Frey-Richison, said.

Frey-Richison called WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil, whom she knows from doing events through her job at Feld Entertainment. O’Neil, whose real name is Thaddeus Bullard, runs the Bullard Family Foundation, a charity that provides resources and experiences to families and children.

Mitchell brought Bullard the cleaned-up pairs of shoes, thinking Bullard would be able to give them to someone.

But instead, Bullard gave Mitchell some words of wisdom that came from personal experience. Bullard grew up poor, wearing tattered hand-me-downs for which he was teased.

“I told him, it’s great to have a heart, but new is always better than used for people living in poverty,” Bullard said. “Getting a new pair of shoes is a totally different feeling. It gives you dignity.”

So, Bullard told Mitchell to keep the used shoes and gave him two boxes full of new shoes to give to people in need.

He said he wanted Mitchell to understand that being generous as a kid means he’ll grow up to be the same way as an adult.

“I’m proud of him,” he said. “He’s the type of kid that I hope our country and our world continues to foster, especially in times like these.”

Inspired, Mitchell started using the money from Richwell Treats to buy more shoes, in different sizes. He and his mom find clearance shoes at Kohl‘s and Rack Room Shoes. Mitchell now has 60 pairs of shoes that he wants to give out as “back to school gifts.”

13-year-old Mitchell Richison makes and sells dog treats to purchase new shoes for kids as "back to school gifts."
13-year-old Mitchell Richison makes and sells dog treats to purchase new shoes for kids as "back to school gifts." [ Courtesy of Angie Frey-Richison ]

But they needed help finding kids who would need the shoes.

So Frey-Richison reached out to a friend, Denise Batronie, who is a kindergarten teacher at Ruskin Elementary. Frey-Richison has donated to the Title I school’s food pantry.

Batronie said that 98 percent of the school population lives in poverty, so there is a huge need for the shoes. But with a limit on the number of people on campus and a way to safely distance to distribute the shoes, they will have to wait.

She said she hopes they can have an event with Mitchell and Frey-Richison present. She thinks Mitchell gets his generous spirit from his mother, who she said is always looking for ways to help others.

“As a teacher, I know the most profound thing for a kid to do is have empathy and give to those who are less fortunate,” she said. “To see a young person to do that is very moving. The fact that this young man is doing this on his own, you don’t often see that.”

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