Saluting 3rd annual UK track and field shoe drive

A salute to all involved with the UK Track & Field Shoe Drive, which is in the midst of its third annual effort to collect shoes for the needy.

The drive began March 1 and will continue until May 10.

“We are collecting ANY kind of shoes in ANY condition, ANY size and ANY gender!” former UK miler Josh Nadzam, who has headed all three drives, wrote in an email.

On-campus collection sites are at the Johnson Recreation Center, CATS (Center for Academic and Tutorial Services, located in Memorial Coliseum), Shively Training Center (adjacent to baseball’s Cliff Hagan Stadium) and the sixth floor of the Patterson Office Tower. Off campus, there is a collection site at the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government offices, 200 East Main Street.

For those unable to make it to a collection site, contact Nadzam (josh.nadzam@gmail) he will arrange to pick up shoes.

“This all started from an epiphany my teammate Luis Orta had when he realized we were wastefully discarding wearable shoes in the trash,” Nadzam wrote. ” As runners, we have to replace our shoes every 400-500 miles; we run anywhere from 60-80 miles a week so you can see this adds up quickly.  He came to me with the idea that, instead of throwing the shoes away, what if we collected them and sent them to developing countries with citizens who have never owned a pair of shoes.  Another teammate, Hiruni Wijayaratne, joined our efforts and as a trio we led our first shoe drive.

“During our first year we collected shoes in a haphazard fashion, flying by the seat of our pants.  We spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and any other form of communication we could think of.  Once the drive concluded we had collected 2,100 pairs of shoes in less than a month.  We partnered with Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization in Nashville that collects shoes and ships them to over 126 different countries.

“The next year we expanded our shoe drive to the entire Southeastern Conference. At UK we collected 2,900 pairs of shoes and over 13,000 pairs throughout the SEC.  This year we hope to make it our biggest shoe drive yet.  While this year is not SEC-wide, we are partnered again with Soles4Souls.  We are asking everyone to get their friends, families, schools, churches, and other organizations involved.  With the selfless help of many teammates, coaches, friends, and community members this has become a huge event.  Our athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, has provided us with the support and resources necessary to make this a success.  Coach (Edrick) Floreal has also supported us tremendously; even though in only his first year as head coach, he immediately emphasized the importance of our efforts and has been one of our strongest advocates to date.  The success of our shoe drive is truly a manifestation of the altruistic compassion that exists in our community in Lexington as well as the unconditional support of Big Blue Nation. ”

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