It was the second day on the job for Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker and he needed a pair of sneakers.
Baker was teaming up with his counterpart at Austin police, Brian Manley, at a Southwest Austin Costco store Tuesday to collect up to $10,000 worth of merchandise for the police’s Christmas charity, Operation Blue Santa.
The duo would get only two minutes to race through the aisles to grab as much merchandise as possible — with RetailMeNot, an Austin-based shopping website, footing the bill as they have for the past five years.
The goods would be auctioned off next year with the proceeds going to Blue Santa, which gives gifts and H-E-B gift cards for meals to families in need during the holiday season. This year’s auction on Dec. 5 raised more than $42,000, said Mike Sheffield with the Police Department’s community liaison office.
But Baker — standing at 6-foot-6 and wearing a size 15 — was caught flat-footed. Minutes before the shopping spree, he found himself without the right shoes that would propel him through the aisles.
As luck would have it, RetailMeNot CEO Cotter Cunningham wears a size 15 and had on a pair of Brooks running shoes. Cunningham slipped off the sneakers and handed them to Baker.
Manley and Baker joked that their training for the event was a secret but they were ready.
“Well, I have already started loosening up last night. I have the reach and I have the strength,” Baker said. “We’re not competing against each other this time around, but next year I will have my tennis shoes. I’ll be more prepared.”
Starting in front of Costco’s checkout lanes, the two chiefs sprinted toward the electronics section, grabbing drones and a flat-screen television.
Like a live-action game of Tetris, the pair stacked boxes on flat shopping carts, constantly reorganizing them or they would topple over.
A Santa Claus dressed in blue cheered on Manley and Baker, who were breathing a bit hard after the two minutes were up.
Manley and Baker sipped water as the items were totaled, reaching a final price tag of $5,153.46.
“This event, to me, really highlights the community we have here,” Manley said.
Article Provided By