Taking Strides collects used footwear and equipment for the city’s recreational programs
Taking Strides partners with some of the sneakers collected in 2011 are (from left) Rebecca Matthews, Doreen Shapter, Stephanie Young and Susan Matthews. — Photos by Paul Lahey
For the past four years, Susan Matthews has been collecting used sports equipment for children in need. Working with the City of St. John’s REAL Program (Recreation Experiences and Leisure), Matthews urges people to clean out closets and donate those old soccer cleats and shorts that are three sizes too small.
Matthews and her daughter, Rebecca Matthews, along with partners Doreen Shapter and Stephanie Young, have collected more than 500 pairs of sneakers, 150 pairs of soccer cleats, 50 pairs of ice skates and at least six full sets of hockey gear. Running shoes alone form a sizable mountain of footwear.
One year, when I was lugging dozens of pairs of sneakers donated by my running club from a gymnasium out to a vehicle, I decided to ask Matthews how it all started.
“One spring evening four years ago, my daughter Rebecca was cleaning out my front closet for me and she commented that … her father (and I) had a lot of running sneakers,” says Matthews.
“She asked why we had so many kicking around, because she thought they all looked perfectly fine. Rebecca thought that we should try and find a place to donate them. I did some research and came up with the REAL Program, which, with the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Program, matches children under 18 with organized sports activities. This year we are working with Christine Jones from the REAL Program and they are very excited to receive our gear again.”
Matthews said they found a home for all their items last year and shared stories of the families, who were very appreciative.
“The families said without the donations, they wouldn’t have been able to participate in organized sports.
“There is a huge need in our community for these items,” adds Matthews. “We have many families who cannot afford to register their children for sports programs this summer because of associated fees and because they do not have money to buy the gear needed. As well, we have discovered that many parents and guardians would like to start running or walking, but do not have the proper footwear. The REAL program will try to provide them with donated sneakers to get them started on the road to fitness.”