In South Windsor, three sisters are taking steps to help a track team in Jamaica
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Fri., Jun. 14, 2013
In Jamaica, track is king. Competitive running is a favorite sport among school children, and many pursue this passion even when they lack basic equipment, like proper running shoes or track spikes. At Pleasant Valley Elementary School in South Windsor, three sisters are taking big steps to help level the playing field for some of the athletes.
Ainsley, Annelise and Alina will be visiting Jamaica this summer to learn more about their father's homeland. They will be making a special delivery while they are there: the three girls have made it their mission to collect 70 running shoes and 70 track spikes, which they will donate to runners at the New Providence Primary School, a grades 1 to 6 elementary school located in Kingston.
"They can't really afford many of the things that people in Connecticut can afford, like running shoes,” said Annelise.
"They don't have a track, so they have to run on hard, dusty ground,” said Ainsley. “It's hard for them.”
The girls were inspired to help New Providence when they saw photos of the school's runners online. “It showed that they didn't have a lot,” said Ainsley. “Some of them didn't have any shoes at all.”
Their selection of New Providence is also a way of rooting for the underdog – the school's team regularly comes in second during an annual competition, losing to a school that is better equipped. “I think one of the reasons is they don't have the support they need, like running shoes and the track. That would probably really help them,” said Ainsley.
Nicknaming their project 3Helpers, the girls decided to reach out to the Pleasant Valley school community for help. During a school assembly, the three stepped up on the stage in the school auditorium and gave a presentation. They shared their plan with their fellow students, and invited them to donate their gently-used shoes. They followed up with an announcement that the school placed in its weekly newsletter, Panther Points. “We've been getting a lot of shoes from that,” said Ainsley. “It's been very helpful.”
The girls, with the help of their parents, enlisted the help of athletic retailers in the area. Their first stop was Fleet Feet in West Hartford. “We asked the manager if we could put up signs asking people to donate,” said Ainsley. The owner not only allowed them to collect donations at the store, but made a donation as well. The owner will also allow 3Helpers to include a call for donations in Fleet Feet's newsletter, which reaches 25,000 members.
They also asked for the support of Dick's Sporting Goods at Buckland Hills Mall, and are awaiting an answer from the corporate level.
Ainsley is a runner herself, and has competed in several recent events. Her father reached out to the organizer of the meets, Michelle White of the Bloomfield Youth Track & Field Program, who sent an e-mail to the meet participants. Because of this e-mail, runners have already committed about 25 spikes for donation.
The girls of 3Helpers are extremely dedicated to their project, and are finding it very rewarding. “It makes me feel so good inside to help,” said Ainsley. “Not everybody can get the opportunity to help others.”
Annelise is also happy to help. “It's good to give them more than what they have, because what they have is not very much,” she said.
"It makes me feel good, too,” said Alina. “If you think about it, the other person will be very happy to have these things.”
As of publication, 3Helpers has donations and commitments totaling to 25 shoes and 22 spikes. They are hoping to reach their 70-70 goal by the end of June, in advance of their trip, but will be accepting donations well into New Providence's running season in the fall. Those interested in donating gently-used running shoes, track spikes or monetary donations for vitamins and other goals can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.