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Sept-2006 - Sneaker drive runs well in Micronesia

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What began as a simple New Year's resolution turned into the successful Heart and Sole Sneaker Drive, collecting nearly 240 used athletic sneakers intended to benefit dozens of youths and adults throughout Micronesia.

Top runner Lisa Mason said she made a resolution last January "to do something to help the community in some way."

She first considered holding a 5K to benefit a good cause, but came up with another idea.

"I decided it would be a lot more influential to do a sneaker drive, to get people out there to get into fitness, and eventually they could run a 5K because there are 5Ks every weekend," Mason said.

So Mason set up collection boxes at Hornet Sporting Goods in Tamuning and Pay-Less Supermarkets at the Micronesia Mall, and asked community members to donate their used shoes. The drive took place in July, and the response was excellent, she said.

"The strongest response was from the running community," Mason said. "I received a lot of really good running shoes."

The biggest donation was from Todd Moenster, a former Guam resident in the Air Force who recently met Mason on a visit to Guam. He told her that when he went back home, he'd clean out his closet. The result was three boxes with 50 pairs of his old running shoes.

"I just felt that that was such a wonderful thing that a person could do," Mason said.

She also received soccer cleats, basketball shoes -- even bike helmets. She and Dave Torre then went through the arduous task of cleaning and sanitizing each pair of shoes before trying to find new owners for them.

Mason was able to donate many of the shoes to track and field teams in Chuuk, the Marshall Islands and Yap. While taking a track and field coaching class at LeoPalace Resort this summer, she met coaches from different islands.

"They really opened my eyes that, while our athletes need equipment here on Guam, (the need is) even more so on these other islands," Mason said. "They have even less than us. There's a lot of runners who don't have sneakers.

"Their response was huge," Mason said. "Barbara Fisher, a coach in the Marshall Islands, distributed them to her track and field team. People were stopping by her house just to find out if she had more sneakers because they don't have a lot out there. Anything we gave them, they were so thankful for."

Mason also gave shoes to the John F. Kennedy High School track and basketball teams, and through Juanita Blaz of Island Girl Power, was able to distribute shoes to students from schools in the north.

She thanked all the local runners and others in the community that donated shoes, especially Moenster. She thanked Sandcastle skaters for detergent donations, Lonestar Steakhouse, Hornet and Pay-Less, and Torre for hours of cleaning shoes and for encouragement.

"I'm very happy, but I also feel very determined and enthusiastic to continue to do this next year," Mason said. "I see a lot more ways that I can make it an even bigger drive next year. So don't throw out your sneakers because someone else can use them, even if you think they're worn."

She asked that those with shoes contact her at heartandsoleguam@hotmail.com

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