Sports charity comes to Calgary to help offset the cost of running shoes

Lianna Thorburn donates shoes used by her sons to ReRun, The Shoe Project on Sunday, January 29, 2023. Craig Momney / Global News

An Ontario-founded sports charity has made its way to Calgary in hopes of ensuring more kids can lace up and hit the track.

Long-time runner Claudia Belanger is behind bringing The ReRun Shoe Project to the city for the first time since it began in Kingston in 2016. It officially kicked off in Calgary earlier this month.

Belanger says the charity collects used and new shoes that “still have life left in them and then we donate them through local youth groups or homeless shelters throughout the community.”

Belanger says the program was originally founded by her friend and now Canadian Olympian, Julie-Anne Staehli.

Since the program’s beginning, it’s collected more than 3,300 donated pairs of running shoes from across the country, from cities including Kingston, London, and Edmonton.

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“I thought it would be really cool to bring the project to Calgary, especially if we can donate to lots of youth groups (for) kids who want to start running but they can’t because they can’t afford to.”

Belanger can attest to the cost of the sport. She has been running since she was 14 years old and estimates that during her time as a runner, she amassed more than 50 pairs of running shoes, having bought a new pair every two to three months.

“You usually need three pairs of shoes — your kind of like practice training shoes, your spikes, your racing flats — so it really adds up,” says Belanger, expressing the need for donations.

By mid-afternoon on Sunday, the charity had collected just one pair of used shoes during a Dinos track meet outside the Jack Simpson gym at the University of Calgary. That was until a mother, Lianna Thorburn, donated to the charity nearly two dozen pairs of shoes previously used by her two sons.

Thorburn believes that while running can be expensive, the ReRun program can help kids stay on the track.

“Running shoes can still be a hundred bucks, a hundred and fifty bucks, and up to two hundred dollars for a really good pair,” Thorburn says.

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“So, if a child can actually use these ones again, then it’s definitely going to make it a lot more accessible for them.”

To help bring in more pairs, ReRun has also partnered with the Caltaf Athletic Association.

Executive director Paula McKenzie believes that by bringing in more shoes, more kids can be introduced to track and field.

“All you need is a pair of running shoes for track and field,” McKenzie says.

“If we can give that to you, that opens up a whole world, and I think sports is life-changing, life-long physical literacy, life-long friendships, and so to be gifted a pair of shoes, it can just open everything up.“

Lightly used to new shoes can be donated at The Tech Shop and Strides Running Store locations in Calgary.

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