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UK tracks stars had an ‘epiphany,’ and now their annual shoe drive is making great strides

The UK Track and Field Shoe Drive began when two distance runners had an 'epiphany' about all the shoes they wastefully threw away each year. (Photo from UK Track and Field Shoe Drive)


The third annual University of Kentucky Track and Field Shoe Drive is under way, through May 10, and organizers are intent on making this the biggest one yet.

Josh Nadzam

Founded by former Wildcat track competitor Josh Nadzam, now pursuing his master’s degree in social work, and current standout Luis Orta, who completed his bachelor’s degree this past December, the pair was then joined by teammate Hiruni Wijayaratne. The first edition of the drive in 2011 resulted in 2,100 pairs of shoes being collected for people in developing countries.

Luiz Orta

“This all started from an epiphany that Luis and I had when he realized we were wastefully discarding wearable shoes in the trash,” Nadzam said.  “As distance runners, we have to replace our shoes every 400-500 miles; we run anywhere from 60-80 miles a week so you can see this adds up quickly.  Luis came to me with the idea that instead of throwing the shoes away what if we collected them and sent them to countries with citizens who have never owned a pair of shoes.” 

Hiruni Wijayaratne

Nadzam, Orta and Wijayaratne collected shoes in a somewhat haphazard fashion that first year, spreading the word through Facebook, Twitter, email and any other form of communication they could think of.  The trio partnered with Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization in Nashville that collects shoes and ships them to over 126 different countries. 

In 2012, the shoe drive was expanded to the entire Southeastern Conference (SEC).  “At UK, we collected 2,900 pairs of shoes and over 13,000 pairs throughout the SEC,” said Nadzam.  “This year we hope to make it our biggest shoe drive yet.”

Nadzam cites the selfless help of many teammates, coaches, friends and community members in enabling the shoe drive to become such a success.  He said he is particularly grateful for the support of UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and first-year Wildcat head track and field coach Edrick Floreal. 

“We are collecting any kind of shoes in any condition, any size, and any gender,” Nadzam added. 

On-campus collection sites are located at the Johnson Recreation Center, the Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (in Memorial Coliseum), Shively Training Center (next to Cliff Hagan Baseball Stadium), and the Patterson Office Tower on the sixth floor.  There are also off-campus collection sitse at the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government at 200 East Main Street.

For additional information, click here.


From UKNow

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