Student Keeps His Word by Wearing Same Shoes for 4 Years

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True, Funny Stuff

Ben Hedblom, 17, dons the same shoes he has worn to school since his first day of freshman year, and he hopes to wear the tattered Nikes to graduation on June 5. Credit: St. Petersburg Times / ZUMApress

Horton the elephant has nothing on Ben Hedblom.

An elephant may be faithful 100 percent, but all Horton did was hatch an egg. Hedblom has been wearing the same pair of shoes for four years. How many teenagers these days can make that boast?

It started off as a bet, but the wager was quickly forgotten. Nonetheless, the senior at Land O' Lakes High School in Florida tells the St. Petersburg Times it was all about keeping his word. He meant what he said and said what he meant.

The bet began four years ago when Hedblom was a freshman in Land O' Lakes, a town of 21,000 located just north of Tampa Bay . He had a bet with Spanish teacher Adrian Antonini that he would begin and end high school in the same pair of shoes.

The loser of the bet would have to shave his hair and eyebrows. The Times reports Antonini left the school the following year and promptly forgot about the wager. Hedblom did not.

Now 17, captain of the football team and getting ready to graduate, he's still wearing the same shoes.

Hedblom tells the paper it's been quite an education about people and perception. A lot of people just assume he's down and out because of his shoes, he says. He even wrote his senior project on the psychology behind him keeping his word and people's reaction to it.

"It made me think less of what other people think of me," he tells the paper. "And it made me approach them and talk to them. And they got to know me as a person. That goes way past the physical experience. I've learned a lot about self image. You are what you believe you are."

Sophomore Arielle Le-Tran admits to the Times that she felt sorry for him when she first saw his tattered shoes. "I just thought maybe he didn't have any money," adds sophomore Sierra Harlan.

Once Hedblom tells his story, the Times reports, most people are impressed -- including his teachers. His senior class project was something of a blockbuster.

"This is the most original one I have ever seen," Nancy Browning, his psychology teacher and project mentor, tells the Times. "It's amazing how creative you can be about taking care of your needs."

One person was not particularly thrilled his project at first. His mother Chris tells the paper she begged her son to buy new shoes.

"He reminds me of his father, who would wear the same shirt for 30 years," Chris Hedblom tells the paper. She eventually learned to love the project and her son's commitment to his word.

And Antonini? The Times tracked him down on his way to a job interview in Texas.

"I'm shocked," Antonini tells the paper. "I don't even remember the bet. But I'm sure I made it, because that's the kind of thing I would do."

He adds he may shave his head via webcam.

As for Hedblom, he tells the paper he plans to retire his shoes after graduation. He hopes they'll end up in the school trophy case.

Related: Florida Boy Takes 13 Million Steps Across America to Combat Homelessness

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.