Off the beaten track: UK runners collecting shoes for charity

By Elizabeth Royse

Since last year, UK’s track and field team has been collaborating with Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization that donates shoes to more than 127 countries.

Track and field team members senior Josh Nadzam and junior Luis Orta started it after considering the number of pairs of shoes they went through in a season of track and field.

The two decided they wanted to do something beneficial with their used pairs of shoes.

“Nobody really has the money to give away, so why not give away a pair of shoes you never wear?” Orta said.

It was this idea that led them to find Soles4Souls.

Delivering more than 16 million pairs of shoes to people all over the world, Soles4Souls has made its mission to collect new shoes to give relief to the victims of abject suffering and collects used shoes to support efforts to eradicate poverty, according to its website.

Soles4Souls has coordinated relief efforts for the Asian Tsunami, as well as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, netting more than 1 million pairs donated for these disasters. The organization has received donations from footwear companies, retailers, churches, nonprofit ministries, civic groups and individuals, according to its website.

Each school in the SEC is now participating in Sole4Souls, according to a flier.

Nadzam and Orta want to make sure that UK wins the shoe drive contest to donate the most shoes.

They have no specific goal they hope to reach, but students do have the chance to donate to a cause that could lead Kentucky to victory in making the most donations in the SEC.

Last year, Nadzam and Orta collected more than 2,100 pairs of shoes between the months of April and May. And since beginning Feb. 1, they have collected more than

100 pairs.

“Whether we only collect one pair, or 1,000 pairs, it’s all better than nothing,” Nadzam said.

UK’s campus currently has three drop-off locations: the Johnson Center, the Shively Sports Center and the Center for Academic and Tutorial Services, where anyone in the Lexington area can drop off pairs of shoes they wish to donate.

“They are hoping to get more drop-off locations this year,” Nadzam said.

The shoe drive will continue through April 27.

“It’s been successful for us because people aren’t having to spend extra money to donate, but everyone has an extra pair of shoes to donate,” Nadzam said.