Runners can give back this holiday season by supporting charitable organizations that make it possible for others to embrace the sport.
This time of year, there’s no shortage of gift guides telling you what to buy for everyone on your list. But what about your running friends and family who seemingly have everything? They don’t need a new watch and their closet is already full of the latest running gear. What do you get them?
As a refreshing alternative, you can make a donation to a running-focused nonprofit, in their name. There are a number of charities that are making a positive difference in the running world. Whether you want to donate in honor of someone you love or simply donate in the spirit of the season, each of the charities explored below provide opportunities for you to invest in the sport you love.
Girls On The Run
The women’s marathon was not included in the Olympics until 1984, and the first jogging stroller wasn’t invented until two years later. Fast forward to the 21st century, and more women are running than ever before. But that change hasn’t necessarily translated to the youth level—especially where girls are concerned. While there are numerous soccer and basketball teams, there are few places where a girl can learn the sport of running. At least, that was the case before Girls on the Run was founded in 2000. With the help of coaches and running buddies, this organization uses running as a platform for teaching girls about health, empowerment and responsibility. Girls on the Run now has locations in all 50 states.
Running is empowering, whether you’re completing your first 5K or racing an ultramarathon. That positive impact is one of the reasons the Project Athena Foundation was started by Robyn Benincasa. She wanted to help female survivors of traumatic setbacks achieve their goals as athletes. Through treks, runs and multi-sport events, Project Athena comes alongside women, giving the gift of community and athletic empowerment through programs and race grants.
Back On My Feet
Simply put, the mission of Back on My Feet is to “combat homelessness through the power of running, community support and essential employment and housing resources.” Since its founding in 2007, the organization has helped more than 2,000 individuals regain stability in life through a comprehensive curriculum that includes financial literacy classes, job training and yes, running. According to its website, Back on My Feet boasts an 83 percent employment rate among its members—many of whom were formally homeless.
An average running shoe costs around $100 and lasts roughly 500 miles. As much as we runners tend to complain about the cost, the blessing remains: We have shoes. There are millions of people around the world who don’t have even a basic pair of shoes—something that limits their access to school and makes them susceptible to disease. The mission of Soles4Souls is to address this issue by collecting gently used shoes. The organization not only distributes gently used shoes, it also employs workers to repurpose shoes—helping lift them out of poverty through the power of work. According to the Soles4Souls website, this two-tiered program has provided shoes to people in 127 countries thus far.
The Hoyt Foundation
Team Hoyt first inspired the world in 1977, when Dick Hoyt agreed to push the wheelchair of his quadriplegic son, Rick, for a 5-mile race. Since then, the father-son duo has completed numerous races—including marathons and triathlons. To bring that same inspiration to others, they founded the Hoyt Foundation in 1989. Through running, the Hoyt Foundation seeks to build the self-esteem of disabled young people and raise awareness of inclusion. Partnering with Team Hoyt helps further this mission across the United States and Canada.