Start time is 10 a.m.
To support the purchase of new shoes for Orphan Souls, the first-time event is not only being held in one of Cleveland’s most sought-after passive parks, it is being sponsored by the Cleveland Daily Banner in an ongoing partnership with the global outreach.
“Our local group of a half-dozen volunteers remains very close throughout the year, but during July and August we gather in larger numbers to make the promotions and collections of new footwear happen,” said Dave Whitaker, a longtime Shoes for Orphan Souls volunteer.
He added, “Speaking for the smaller group of committed volunteers, we want to express our very deepest gratitude for the help dependably rendered by the Cleveland Daily Banner each summer in making Cleveland and Bradley County aware of the Shoes project.”
This is the intent behind the invitation to the Banner to serve as primary sponsor for Saturday’s uniquely named 5K road race, Whitaker explained.
Shoes For Orphan Souls is among many valued initiatives anchored in the Cleveland and Bradley County community, according to Stephen Crass, Cleveland Daily Banner publisher.
“Our newspaper for years has followed the excellent work of Shoes For Orphan Souls, and we have worked to stay involved by serving as a collection point for the organization’s annual drive,” Crass said. “Certainly, we are honored to serve as primary sponsor for Saturday’s 5K fundraiser. We invite the community — runners and nonrunners alike, and their families — to show up Saturday morning for some healthy exercise and fresh air, all in a wholesome, outdoor atmosphere.”
Keith Gombash, point man for Saturday’s festivities at Fletcher Park, said the event’s name — “Barefoot Run” — is intended to attract attention to the cause of Shoes For Orphan Souls. Although brave souls are welcome to run the 5K in bare feet, running shoes are probably a better idea.
“Don’t let the name, ‘Barefoot Run,’ worry you,” Gombash, another longtime Shoes volunteer, said with a chuckle. “You can wear shoes or run the 5K (3.1 miles) barefoot. Either way, just come out Saturday, bring the family and have some fun at Fletcher Park. We’ll start at 10 a.m. and award medals for all the categories will come at noon.”
The event will include eight age groups of runners with each group receiving a first, second and third-place medal. Plus, medals will be awarded to the race’s overall male and female winner. Additionally, a one-mile “Fun Run/Walk” will be held, Gombash explained.
“Everyone who preregisters for the event by Wednesday (May 29) will receive a ‘Barefoot Run’ T-shirt,” Gombash said.
Registration is online at www.catchministry.net. Registrants should look for the “Barefoot Run” banner.
According to media information provided by the organization, Gombash is part of an enthusiastic team from about 25 area churches and businesses that collect new footwear each August to be distributed through the annual Shoes For Orphan Souls project to children in need in more than 70 countries around the world.
“Fitting a pair of new shoes on an orphan in a third world country is like lacing up that child’s life with hope,” Gombash said. “There are a lot of reasons this is so. Statistics show that a child’s state of health improves significantly with just a pair of shoes. This is because without shoes a child’s growing foot calluses and cracks open, allowing infection to enter the young body.”
Gombash added, “Then there’s the education factor. Without shoes these kids will not be accepted into a school. Without an education, the hope for reasonable employment is gone.”
With a knowing smile, one that has taken a voice of inspiration to local organizations as well as to foreign countries over the years, Gombash stressed, “A simple pair of shoes means real hope to a child.”
Pre-registration for the Barefoot Run 5K is $25 and ends Friday. Registration on the day of the event is $30. Start and finish are at Fletcher Park which is located at 1575 Tennessee Nursery Road.
The one-mile Fun Run/Walk is $20 per entry.
All proceeds will benefit Shoes For Orphan Souls.
“Running Saturday with shoes is probably the better, and safer, idea,” Crass said. “But, any who go barefoot — either in the race or in the Fun Run/Walk — certainly will be reminded of what it’s like to go without shoes, even if it’s just for a brief time. Sometimes we in this country take life, and its many blessings, for granted. This includes the simplest of things, like shoes.”