Boston Marathon Runner Raises Money for 1,000 Pairs of Shoes for Children in Africa

11/10/16

“Okay, I’m checking the box,” Erin Curtis thought after she ran in Seattle’s Rock and Roll Marathon. “I ran a marathon; I’m done.”

It didn’t take long before Erin realized she didn’t want to stop. When she learned her marathon time qualified her to run in the Boston Marathon, it felt like an opportunity she couldn't pass up. But as Erin began thinking about this new race, it felt empty. She loved running, but something was missing—this run needed to be about more than just her.

“I believe so strongly that if we have a passion, and we have gifts and we have talents, it’s about using those to serve others,” Erin says.

On the way home from picking up a Christmas tree last year, Erin started brainstorming fundraising ideas with her brother. Because runners have to buy new shoes every three months, Erin decided she’d make her fundraiser all about giving shoes to people in need. She named her fundraiser "Run for Soles." 

 

"We need to use what we've been given to give back," Erin says. To hear the full interview, listen to COTN's podcast, "Boston Marathon Runner Raises Money for 1,000 Pairs of Shoes for Children in Africa."

 

Her sister-in-law, Emily Curtis, suggested Erin send the donations to Children of the Nations (COTN). Emily had been working with COTN and knew firsthand how big of an impact shoes make in the children’s lives.

Shoes protect kids' feet from cuts and scrapes, which can easily turn into infections, and from parasites. Most of the children and families COTN serves can’t afford shoes or the basic medical care needed to treat infections and parasites. Without care, these treatable issues can quickly turn into serious problems.

But it’s not easy keeping the thousands of growing children in COTN’s care in good shoes. Many of these children have to walk to school, sometimes up to 45 minutes through the jungle, over dirt roads, and across rivers. Good shoes are critical

 

                      Some of the children in COTN’s care live in a remote part of Sierra Leone’s jungle.

 

Erin set a goal to raise $12,000, enough money to purchase 1,000 pairs of shoes. “It was a number I didn’t think I could meet,” says Erin, “but I figured I might as well shoot for the stars. What do you have to lose at the end of the day?”

With only four months until the marathon, Erin spent her evenings and weekends contacting friends and family about her Run for Soles fundraiser. Every time she received an email from COTN saying another person had donated, she was inspired to keep going. “I was like, 'Yes!' That was a huge, huge thing for me.”

Erin’s hard work and enthusiasm paid off, and she reached her goal. “I just felt so overwhelmed with joy that it could even happen,” Erin says. “I truly believe it was all God’s doing. I just felt so grateful for everyone who had donated and supported the fundraiser.”

On a beautiful, sunny morning last April, Erin joined 30,000 runners in Boston. On the back of her shirt she had the names of her four biggest donors.

 

                                                   Erin’s race-day shirt inspired her to keep running.

 

“During the race when times were hard or when I was exhausted, thinking of those names on my back as well as the names of individuals who just supported the fundraiser in general kept me going” Erin says. 

“I had hundreds of people running with me in spirit, crossing that finish line,” Erin says. “Knowing what it took to get there made that finish line 100 percent worth it, and I don’t think it would have been that without the fundraiser.”  

Erin says this experience changed her. She discovered a deep gratitude for things like shoes, health, and her ability to run. “I found myself just really being strengthened in my prayer habits,” she says. “It just really made me realize that we can’t do anything on our own. We need Him for everything we do in our lives. This fundraiser was a great reminder. I could not have done it without faith in my life.”

“I hope when [the children] receive these shoes it encourages them to accomplish their dreams, that it gives them a sense of hope for a brighter future,” Erin says. “I also hope that it lets them know that they are loved.”

 

          "I hope [these shoes] will literally bring them one step closer to accomplishing their dreams in life," Erin says.        

 

Months after the marathon, COTN surprised Erin when they sent her a video of children in Sierra Leone saying thank you for the shoes. “Oh my gosh, it was absolutely incredible!” she says. “I think it just made it all feel real. How I wish I could be the one giving them the shoes.”

“For anyone who is wanting to do a fundraiser, do not be discouraged, do not give up, because what you’re doing is impactful,” Erin says. “Ask for prayers, ask for support, trust in God to provide. It’s really neat to see how He works. He uses all of us as a team, as a family to bring good to this world, and it’s amazing to see that happen.”

Host your own fundraiser or other event! Contact a COTN representative today or visit our Get Involved page for more information.