Friday, August 15, 2008

Running Fit's Drive Yields Big Results

After years of training for marathons on the streets of Ann Arbor, MI., LSA seniors Brad Stulberg and Nate Fink had more than a few pairs of shoes collecting dust in the back of their closets. But they didn't trash their kicks or sell them on eBay.

"I had run through a pair of shoes and I started thinking, 'I have these shoes sitting in my closet, there's got to be something better to do with them,' " Stulberg said. "Then I started thinking, 'Why not donate these shoes?' "

Stulberg developed the initial idea and got Fink, then vice president of the Michigan Student Assembly, involved in the project. The duo pitched the concept to Running Fit's owners, who were eager to help with the project.

Steve Angerman, a co-owner of the company, said runners often feel guilty about throwing away a pair of shoes that still look and work fine for everyday use but aren't suited for running anymore.

"It really is an issue that arises, and we thought, 'yeah, let's try to do something about that,' " he said.

In June, self-proclaimed "running junkies" Stuhlberg and Fink, joined Running Fit and started a campaign to benefit Soles4Souls. Customers who dropped off their used shoes at any of Running Fit's seven locations would receive a discount on their next purchase.

The donations began pouring in.

At the end of the two month collection time, the drive collected a staggering 2,954 pairs of shoes.

"When I first had the idea to do something with my old running shoes, I can assure you that I had nothing like what we accomplished together in my mind," said Stulberg. "The fact that this ran so smoothly is a true testament to the dedication of all the stakeholders involved in this project."

Stulberg said the health benefits of wearing shoes are vast, but often overlooked.

According to the World Health Organization, hookworm, a parasite that primarily enters the body through the feet, is a leading cause of anemia and protein malnutrition. It affects about 740 million people worldwide.

"In the majority of hookworm cases, the initial transmission occurs from the soil to the feet because people aren't wearing shoes," Stulberg said. "To better help you understand what this means, the quantifiable impact of this shoe drive is over 2.1 million dollars in medical cost avoidance."

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