America's tallest man has some big shoes to fill, literally.
Igor Vovkivinskiy doesn't play basketball, or any other sport for that matter, but this very large man has an even bigger problem. The 29-year-old Minnesota resident, the tallest man in the United States, is about to be shoeless.
As a result of a tumor in his pituitary gland, Vovkivinskiy has dealt with many unreal life issues. "When we came to the United States from the Ukraine, I was almost 7 years old. At that time, I had already surpassed my mom in height. I was already 6 feet tall," he told Minnesota TV station WCCO.
Thanks to his now massive 7-foot-8 body, Vovkivinskiy hasn't been able to get a new pair of shoes in an astounding six years. His last pair of sneakers are so worn down, they basically provide zero support.
When Igor last had shoes made in Germany, they were size 26. However, that was before he underwent a mind-boggling 16 surgeries that have dramatically altered the very shape of his oversized feet.
"Not having shoes has basically handicapped me, partially," he said. "It’s been pretty depressing at times."
Igor turned to WCCO for help in getting his predicament out to the public. The towering man has contacted a number of shoe companies for help, but only the nice people at Reebok responded. Vovkivinskiy figured he'd be a good candidate to do commercials, but Nike, Converse and Red Wing Shoes never returned his messages. TV shows including Dr. Phil, Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres also passed.
Reebok informed Igor it would cost more than $15,000 to have his shoes custom made.
A struggling college student, Vovkivinskiy couldn't come up with the cash. He recently started a web page to collect donations, on the advice of friends. The goal was $16,000.
Generous people around the world have answered this gentle giant's desperate pleas for help. About $2,700 had been raised when WCCO-TV first chronicled his shoe dilemma. Thanks to its reporting and bloggers picking up the story, amazing things have happened.
Igor excitedly reports his goal has been reached. As of this morning more than $25,000 had been raised. "Thank you so much to everyone who made this donation drive happen!!," Igor wrote on his website. "I cannot believe my eyes at the amount and the generosity of the people. Thank you all."
As donations continue to pour in, this giant might be able to grab two pairs.
"I don't know what I'm going to do first when I get that pair of shoes," he said. "I have so many things I want to do, just a simple walk."
-- Follow Ben Maller on Twitter @BenMaller.
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