Chicago, Chicago, Events, Rescue Missions

One Pair for Gina.

0 Comments 15 September 2010

From Left to Right: Tom Wicus, East Coast Director of Ops; My Mom; MacCallister Byrd, my older son; Me; Jackson Byrd, my youngest son; Melinda Byrd, my wife; Lindsey Nagy, GYS Board Advisor

Chicago started like any other event; me recruiting basically my whole family as volunteers to help collect shoes from all the runners and participants at the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.  Also joining us for this event were Tom and Lindsey from New York.  The team was assembled and ready to go.  All we needed now were for the people to come through the expo and donate their shoes.  Odd thing was, the expo was strangely slow for us.  The slowest expo to date as a matter of fact. What we collected in two days we normally collect in a half a day.  Not all was lost and to better explain, let me back up a few days.

I landed in Chicago a week before the event feeling positive knowing how much Chicago loves running.  Even though Chicago loves running, I knew I had to get the word out about us being at the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in hopes of collecting as many pairs of shoes as possible for Breakthrough Urban Ministries.  What better way to get the word out, with no marketing budget, than good ‘ole social networking! The next few nights I was a Tweeting and Facebook crazed, non-profit peddling machine.  Anytime someone mentioned #RnRCHI on Twitter I was tweeting them.  Anytime someone posted something about the event on Facebook I was replying; all in hopes of getting the word out about donating their shoes.  I am constantly amazed by the connections that can be made from such valuable social networking tools.

Tom and I with Jason and Molly Mesnick

Through using Twitter I was able to meet Jason and Molly Mesnick from The Bachelor.  They both showed immediate interest in what we were doing.  What a blessing it was to have them reach out to me and ask how they could help.  Not only did they start spreading the news to over 40k of their followers but they also offered to come work the booth for awhile on Saturday.  It was having them hang out with us at the booth and in hindsight, even though the expo was slow for us, I was glad because it gave me time to get to know Jason and Molly.  Each of them have tremendous hearts for helping others.  Jason even has his own non-profit called Project Parachute that focuses on helping single parents in America by providing childcare scholarships and establishing single parent support programs across the nation.  After spending a couple hours together with them and getting to know one another I’m sure we will be teaming up again in hopes of helping the lives of those in need.

Ending the day with only 125 pairs I wasn’t quite sure what to expect come race day and to be quite honest, I was disappointed.  That’s what’s nice about having such a supportive family and team.  They always know how to keep things positive and focus on what is being accomplished – Helping others. Whether we collect another 125 pairs on race day or one pair, the fact was, we had collected 125 pairs for people in Chicago who might not otherwise have any.

Race Day. 6 am. It’s quiet. People are gear checking their clothes across from our booth. The race begins. 8:30 am comes and all heck breaks loose! Within three hours we take in 350 pairs and run out of flip flops to give people. People were coming by the booth, tossing shoes behind us, to the sides of us, in piles! It was awesome!  Total count for three days – 475 Pairs!  The 2nd largest collection to date at one event for us.  The message was clear, our job is not to worry about when and where the shoes will come from, but to do our due diligence in the work and be ready when it happens.

After all, it was just one pair that made a difference to Gina, not 475.

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