Earlier this week I met with Greg Woodburn to discuss and share our projects with each other. I was so impressed with his dedication to help both internationally and locally- a true Sunny Star.
Greg has been running all of his life and he currently runs competitively for USC. When Greg suffered injuries during high school, he had some time to appreciate the privilege of running. He realized that many people could not run for one simple reason: they did not have shoes. Once he discovered this, he founded Give Running, which started as a home project and has now become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. I was lucky enough to have Greg share his story with me which you can read below. You can also visit his website:http://giverunning.org/default.aspx
1. What is the basis of Give Running?
Give Running shares a love for running, as well as the many benefits and opportunities running provides, with disadvantaged youth in Third-World nations and local inner-city communities by collecting, cleaning, and then donating new and used running and athletic shoes. (Give Running also gives out a pair of new socks with each pair of shoes we donate, and educates youth about the sport of running.) Give Running also spreads the joy of giving by providing people who want to help others with a way to help others through shoe contributions and youth runner sponsorships. Together, we can make a world of difference to deserving youth from Los Angeles to Haiti to as far away as Africa by giving them a chance to lace ’em up and encouraging them to take a step forward – and never stop running!
2. How happy did you feel when you donated the shoes to the people in Africa?
Even though I had played giving out the shoes over and over in my mind, nothing could prepare me for the actual experience. The first pair of shoes we gave to the village chief, and I remember as I helped put on his socks and shoes my hands were visibly shaking with excitement and adrenaline and joy. It was quiet, too, as when you are really focused in the moment. The joy of giving in Sikoro, Mali saturates more than just my time in Mali — it continues to bring me happiness and pride as I look back on the memory and know the experience continues to the present moment as those women and children and men are hopefully wearing their shoes right now.
3. How did the children display their happiness upon receiving the shoes?
As in most cases, the happiness and magic of the moment was mostly conveyed through the eyes. The children’s eyes had been playful and bright since we had arrived, and I think both their hosting us and giving us visitors so much, and our giving to them, filled us both with the reciprocal joys of a gift and helping. To be sure, part of the excitement was displayed through chaos as everyone was talking over each other and crowding in to be as close to the action as possible, but fortunately the village hunter kept the kids in line whenever they became too spirited!
4. What has been the biggest challenge of the project and how has this affected your happiness? How did you overcome it?
I think Give Running’s greatest blessing has also been its greatest challenge: the overwhelming support from people who have learned about our cause and wanted to become involved. Indeed, Give Running has quickly grown to include shoe donation drives and events across the country and around the world, which has inspired me but also caused logistical challenges and trial-by-fire in some cases! The stress of problem-solving can definitely affect my happiness, but keeping things in perspective and doing what you can helps me maintain happiness and peace of mind.
5. What has been the happiest part of the project?
Giving shoes out to kids always brings a smile to my face, but to be honest, I cannot single out one part of Give Running as the happiest because each part is dependent on everything else. Each part of give Running is the happiest, most fulfilling part.