VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Seven hundred local students at 14 schools across the area will be gifted new running shoes to participate in the annual Shamrock Marathon Weekend.
The J&A Racing Foundation, in partnership with local businesses and partners, will welcome more than 4,000 students to the Operation Smile Shamrock Final Mile on March 19. Hundreds of them will have new running shoes as part of the Starting Strides program.
J&A Racing owners Jerry and Amy Frostick say they have made it their mission to make sure that local students are able to participate in the race weekend.
The organization has worked with other local businesses to help fund the entry fees for the event, plus transportation and new shoes for each student.
“Originally when we created the Starting Strides program, it was designed to provide scholarships to cover race entries for area schools with economically disadvantaged communities, as a way to help eliminate the barriers that may prevent students from experiencing the Operation Smile Shamrock Final Mile,” said Amy Frostick, co-owner of J&A Racing. “The addition of the shoe program was created after I had the privilege of running with a remarkable young man that didn’t let his lack of proper footwear stop him from enjoying the sport of running.”
On Thursday, March 10, 50 students at Newtown Elementary School got running shoes fresh out of the box.
"It just warms me inside. It's so great to see their excitement," Amy told News 3. "Their faces, their reaction to it - it's just a great feeling."
Amy elaborated on the story of the young boy who shared his personal struggle.
"He said, 'My feet are just really hurting.' And he said, 'My grandmother can only afford one pair of shoes a year,'" she recalled.
And that's when she reached out to neighborhood businesses, asking them to donate to cover running shoes and new shoes for the kids.
"I said, 'We need to find a way to get these kids shoes.' So, that was it. We did it," Amy said.
And the kids are ready to run! The donations are helping boost their confidence on race day.
"I run so fast - I go like a cheetah," said Ressan Abdalla, a student at Newtown Elementary.
The Starting Strides program has provided shoes to schools since 2019. The shoes for Newtown Elementary students came from Murphy's Irish Pub - fitting for St. Patrick's Day.
"When I am running, I am exercising, and it gives me a chance to clear my mind,” said Rian, a 3rd grader from Virginia Beach. “I am feeling good and confident about running my first race and I am looking forward to seeing my family cheer me on during the Final Mile."
Students are currently preparing for race day. For more information on the program, click here.