Thanks to Lolo Jones, hundreds of Iowa schoolchildren will start 2014 on good footing—literally.
Working under the auspices of her Lolo Jones Foundation, the two-time Olympian returned last week to her hometown of Des Moines and gave out 400 pairs of athletic shoes at Findley Elementary School.
The program is called “Shoes for Hope,” and as someone who grew up in a low-income family and often benefited from such generosity, it’s an initiative she says is “near and dear to [her] heart.”
“The whole classroom is coming in, everyone gets a pair of shoes,” Jones told the Des Moines Register, careful to avoid making those youngsters in need of assistance feel awkward or ashamed.
“Maybe there are some that don’t need it, but there are those that do need it—they’re not kind of singled out,” she added. “You would never know, because they’re coming in as a whole classroom.”
At Findley Elementary, 96 percent of students qualify for free lunch and breakfast programs, so it’s likely many of the students that danced and celebrated in the gymnasium received sneakers their families wouldn’t be able to afford.
While in Des Moines, Jones also gave 200 pairs of shoes to local running clubs and even found time to squeeze in a bobsled workout. In addition to being a famed hurdler—she competed in the 100 meters at the Beijing and London Olympics and has twice won gold in the 60-meter hurdles at the World Indoor Championships—she’s hoping to make the bobsled squad that represents the United States at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It’s been quite a journey for someone who spent part of her childhood homeless, and Jones hasn’t lost perspective. She still remembers what it meant to receive free shoes when she was a kid.
“It gave me hope,” she told the Register, “hope that there’s a future.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg