TEMPE, AZ — Uplifting Arizona and an act of kindness on the cross country track. A Valley teacher rallied her community to donate new running shoes for an entire middle school team.
As a cross country team, each runner has to stick together. But, for some on the Gilliland Middle School team, it's been an uphill battle getting the most up-to-date equipment.
"They were running in shoes not intended for running. I just really wanted to help and see what I could do to get them the right footwear for the sport,” said McKemy Academy Teacher Kathleen Burd.
Burd noticed the footwear concerns while volunteering at a recent meet.
She talked with her husband, family, and friends to buy shoes for the team. Burd thought she needed only 10 pairs, but later learned she needed a couple of dozen.
Not long after the idea, the young runners had their shoes.
"They feel good. They are comfortable. They are nice. They are good running shoes,” said eighth-grader Kamill Brown.
"It definitely made me think I was faster. It obviously pushed me a lot. I have grown from the time that I started,” said Axani Sanchez.
Their coach noticed the students' spirit and performance changed during the first meet after getting the new shoes.
"I was so impressed because both the boys and girls teams actually won their cross country meet. So, what does it do to their spirit? I think that's immeasurable,” said Coach Jess Pena.
The teacher and coach say they're used to hearing about donations to schools for inside the classroom, but not always about donations for outside the classroom. They hope this type of giving back continues.
"That just really lifts my heart and makes me feel really grateful,” added Coach Pena.
"My dream and hope are for this to grow. I would love for GMS to have an entire closet full of shoes and sporting equipment,” added Burd.