Since Alice Gold owned the store, Fleet Feet Sports, Hartford has supported the cross country and track team at Capital Preparatory Magnet School in inner-city Hartford by providing their student-athletes with shoes, clothes, watches and love.
Most of these students are from poverty-stricken homes. They go without heat in the winter and oftentimes go without food, let alone luxuries like cell phones, laptops and stylish jeans that their peers in the suburbs have. Yet, these are some of the most well-spoken, kind and gracious kids I have ever met - fast too – thanks to the dedication and love of Coach Scott Wojnarowicz who is really amazing with these kids.
Twice a year we visit the school to fit the 40+ kids running cross country and track with shoes (with special thanks to Saucony, Asics and Brooks who support this initiative). While our shoe bags may be empty when we leave, our hands are always full of thoughtful Thank You notes written by the students. Last year, one of the letters touched me in a profound way. It was from an amazing young woman named Britteni.
Circumstances required Britteni to grow-up way too fast. She has to take care of her mother who is battling cancer and her brother who is mentally ill. She had to give up her cell phone, forgo new clothes and pick-up food for her family at a food shelter. But as you read an excerpt from her letter below, you will see that running has made all the difference in her life.
“My household was always in a state of riot. Arguing and disagreeing. I make sure to limit my time at home. I found peace through the sport of track. I ran from the stresses of verbal abuse from a brother who does not know any better and not being able to help my now frail mother. I used this peace and turned it into strength. I learned how to make time for school and track, by zoning out many of the problems at home that were holding me back. I practice hard. I raced hard. I achieved tremendously. By running, I was able to make myself happy. I was able to gain achievements for myself and do something no one in my family had done. I am going to college.
“I thank you for all that you have done and I am quite happy to say that you helped start my running career. The team and I didn't have sneakers, the most effective product known to feet, yet you gave us each a pair. The sneakers gave us the boost we needed to continue running. Your caring and generosity made me feel welcomed to the sport of running. I appreciate everything from the spikes to trainers to socks. You have been beyond generous and helped me learn another part of kindness: love."
Currently Britteni is a student-athlete at LaSalle University and dreams of getting her degree in social work thanks to an athletic scholarship.