Injured Naperville runner leads shoe drive for those in need
A classic case of "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" motivated one Naperville high schooler to start a shoe drive that will have an impact around the world.
Allison Grady, a junior at Naperville North, was a track team member who loved running the heart-pounding 400-meter dash until she injured her hip practicing hurdles in April.
Since then, she's been unable to run until a cartilage donor can be found and she can have surgery.
What she had was a love of running, but for now, it's gone. And that made Allison realize a few things.
"Being able to run is a privilege that I did not understand before my injury," she said.
Some people don't have that privilege simply because they lack the resources, the luxury of free time -- even the basics like shoes.
"I know there are people in the world that have life a lot harder than I do," she said.
So Allison decided to aid those people by helping them run with a shoe drive that concluded Tuesday at the eighth annual Crosstown Classic elementary school race among the 14 grade schools in Naperville Unit District 203.
The drive collected more than 2,500 pairs of shoes -- 2,568, to be exact -- that Allison soon will deliver to the Chicago office of the nonprofit Share Your Soles. The organization has delivered more than 2 million pairs of sanitized, gently worn, donated shoes to people in poverty in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, Eastern Europe and the U.S. The shoes from Naperville will be among the next shipped around the world to wherever they're most needed.
It makes Allison proud that the idea she developed because her hip popped out of its socket will help so many avoid disease and discomfort -- and maybe experience the joy of running and motion.
"The feeling you get after you run a race is unlike anything I can explain," she said.
It has to be experienced.
As District 203 celebrated the success of the Share Your Soles drive Tuesday at Mill Street Elementary, more than 1,000 young students experienced the joy of racing in distances between 400 meters and a mile. The kids are participants in running clubs at their schools, which have grown since Mill Street art teacher Chuck Hoff started a group at his school around 2008.
Allison didn't run with Mill Street's club when she went there, but her younger brother is a fifth-grader who got to race Tuesday.
Her participation, until she can run again, was to organize the shoe drive and to pitch in a pile of her own former pairs. Most shoes collected were running shoes or athletic footwear, but people also gave high heels, men's dress shoes, warm winter boots and other stylish sneaks.
"It was the perfect opportunity," Allison said, "to give them to people who need them."