Running shoes from Ahwatukee Foothills could benefit people in need all over the world, thanks to a shoe drive organized by a local mom.
Amy Schwab has collected 120 pairs of sneakers to benefit the non-profit group Give Running. She hopes to get at least 300 pairs by the end of the month.
“There’s no going wrong with this,” Schwab said. “Whatever we can do, it’s that many more shoes that other people didn’t have.”
Give Running is a non-profit organization that distributes used shoes to people who can’t afford sneakers – and in many cases, can’t afford shoes at all. The group was started in 2006 by Greg Woodburn, a Ventura, Calif., resident who had finished his sophomore year at the University of Southern California.
Woodburn only intended to have a single shoe drive as a way to stay connected to competitive running while he was sidelined with injuries his freshman and sophomore years in high school. He tried to collect 100 pairs of shoes over a single Christmas break, but ended up with 500.
Seeing that enthusiasm from the community prompted Woodman to expand the effort. Give Running now has seven branches around the world and had collected more than 6,500 pairs of shoes.
“While my injuries were devastating at the time, they were blessings in disguise,” Woodburn said. “I’m able to run now, and I’ve been able to share my love of running with other people.”
Schwab read about Woodburn in a Reader’s Digest article in December and immediately knew she wanted to do something to help.
Schwab has encouraged her own kids to run because it’s beneficial for so many facets of life. Her daughter, Hailey, was a cross country runner at Kyrene Middle School this year, and her other daughter, Kate, participated in the Girls on the Run program at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School. Her son, Austin, is also involved in sports like soccer.
“It builds self-confidence, self-discipline, and being able to set goals and accomplish those goals. With running, you have to build. You have to start with half a mile, and then you build to a mile, and before you know it you’re running a 5K,” Schwab said. “The biggest thing for me is self-confidence. If they have that, they can do anything.”
That enthusiasm for running combined with Woodburn passion for the project set her drive in motion.
“I think of my own kids, too,” Schwab said. “He thought about this when he was in high school, and it shows what one person can do.”
Since Schwab’s family already had plans to go to Ventura, Give Running’s home base, this summer, she figured they could just drop the shoes off on their summer vacation.
They collected shoes at Colina before school ended and plan to have a collection at Corpus Christi Catholic Church later this month, but Schwab is taking shoes just about anywhere she goes. Friends who have heard about the shoe drive have taken to just handing her shoes when they run into her.
About one-third of the shoes collected go to people around the U.S. and the rest go to communities around the globe, including towns in Sudan, Haiti and Mali.
Having the right foot support has a big impact on letting people run, but there are other advantages to donating shoes. Diseases can be stopped with protective footwear, and they can also overcome a barrier for getting into school, since some places require students to have shoes before they’re allowed in a classroom, Woodburn said.
Woodburn has met some of the people who have benefited from the shoes. He cleans mud from many of the donations himself and thinks about those people frequently.
“When you’re handling this pair of shoes, you know one person has already run in these shoes and had their life in these shoes. And now it’s going to go onto this second life,” Woodburn said. “These two people may never meet face to face, but they do meet foot to foot, in a way.”
To donate shoes to the Ahwatukee shoe drive, contact Schwab at email@example.com. She will collect shoes through the end of June.
For more information about Give Running, visit www.giverunning.org.