INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - IUPUI basketball coach Ron Hunter, who went barefoot for a game last season, won't be able to deliver shoes to the poor in Nigeria this month because the U.S. State Department said it wouldn't be safe to go.
Instead, Hunter said his group will travel to Lima, Peru, on Thursday to deliver about 15,000 pairs of shoes.
Originally, a group of about 40 people from IUPUI and Samaritan's Feet, a charitable organization based in Charlotte, N.C., planned to deliver shoes and visit orphanages, schools and hospitals in Nigeria. Hunter and some of his players also planned to hold basketball clinics.
The shoes made it across the Atlantic Ocean, but the group won't. Samaritan's Feet spokesman Todd Melloh said Tuesday that the State Department contacted the charity to say the trip might be a bad idea.
The State Department Web site has a travel warning against going to the West African nation, saying unusually high levels of violence and crimes are committed there by police, militias and ordinary citizens.
``Nigeria has an unsettled situation,'' Melloh said. ``They (the State Department) intercepted communication that it was not going to be positive for our trip. It was almost like they were waiting for us.''
Hunter said the charity already had planned to send shoes to Peru later in the year. He said the central coast of the South American nation still is recovering from a massive earthquake last Aug. 15. Though his heart was set on going to Africa, he is looking forward to the trip to Lima.
``I was a little disappointed, but I've got to worry about the well-being and the safety of the people going with us,'' Hunter said. ``Now, we get to go help another part of the world.''
Samaritan's Feet convinced Hunter to go barefoot for a Jan. 24 game against Oakland, and Hunter set a pregame goal of collecting 40,000 pairs of shoes in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
By tipoff, he'd already raised 110,000 pairs, counting those that had been pledged on the Samaritan's Feet Web site. The charity said Hunter has raised more than 150,000 pairs of shoes.
Many of the shoes already have been delivered across the world. Some have gone to Liberia and the Darfur region of Sudan. Others have been delivered to kids in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
Samaritan's Feet plans to send shoes to Uganda and Mozambique in Africa, and Guyana in South America later this year.
The mission of the Christian-based charity is to send 10 million shoes in 10 years to children living in poverty. This year's goal is 1 million pairs.
The group will return to the United States on Aug. 4.
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On the Net: Samaritan's Feet Web site: http://www.samaritansfeet.org.

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