Local Running Clubs Donate Shoes to Less Fortunate Kids

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By Doug Herrmann, Fox 8 Photographer

CLEVELAND, Ohio --

Ask and you shall receive. That's the life lesson some local athletes are learning on the track.

Running clubs in northeast Ohio have come to the rescue after Rob Mathis, the father of two Cleveland high school track students, sent out an e-mail asking for help.

Thomas was at a recent track meet watching his own kids compete when he realized there were kids running in canvas sneakers, basketball shoes and even boots.

"We didn't really realize how much of a need there was for running shoes in the inner city until we saw them out there running," Mathis said. "The economy has played a big impact on the kids and their families, and the ability to buy proper running shoes."

Joe Vasil, with the Southeast Running Club, received the e-mail and wanted to do something to help.

"You have kids who want to go out and be active, and they don't have the right equipment to do it, and we need to encourage them and stand up and help them out," Vasil said.

So, on a chilly Sunday morning in February, more than 30 runners showed up for an organized run, with old running shoes to donate.

Laurie Colon, with the Northeast Ohio Running Club, said, "We all have shoes, mounds of shoes sitting in our closet that we just sit and look at."

To date, Mathis has collected over 120 pairs of shoes, cleaning and sorting them from his home in Cleveland. He said, "It looked like a foot locker, but without the boxes, so there were shoes everywhere."

The East Tech High School track team has been fitted and running in their new shoes for a couple of weeks now.

"It's made a huge difference.  Now, you don't have to worry about the shoes flopping off of the kids feet. You don't have to worry about the weight," said Coach Leroy Carter.

A Rhodes High School graduate, who wanted to remain anonymous, came across the e-mail and wrote a check to have every member of the Rhodes track team fitted for brand new track shoes.

So, the word has spread, and Mathis says, "Keep the shoes coming."

When the e-mail got out, more shoes poured in, but so did the demand.  Mathis has been in contact with four other Cleveland schools, as well as a number of schools from surrounding cities.

He said, "I'm looking to expand. They had city championships last week, and I see the need is even greater."

Mathis is very grateful to the Cleveland running community, and the runners are glad to help out.

"The running community here is just so full of heart; it's always been that way, but this went far beyond anything that I thought," said Colon.

Freshman Creshawna Thomas, a track member at East Tech, said, "I'm real grateful to know that people care about us--that they'll donate to people they don't even know."

*Donations can be made at the Cleveland Running Company on Van Aken Blvd. in Shaker Heights.

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