And all the participants wore shoes, chuckled race organizer Keith Gombash, a longtime Shoes For Orphan Souls volunteer who said the shoes purchased with 5K Run and Fun Run/Walk proceeds will be included in the coming annual shoe campaign scheduled for the entire month of August.
“I’m very happy with the turnout of runners and walkers, especially since this is our first event in Cleveland,” Gombash stressed. “We’ve made Cleveland and Bradley County a little more aware of the need to fit shoes on orphans worldwide.”
The first-time Barefoot Run 5K and Fun Run/Walk were held in Cleveland’s popular Fletcher Park, a passive recreational facility whose civic uses are growing rapidly.
According to Dave Whitaker, another longtime Shoes For Orphan Souls volunteer who coordinates much of the local group’s public information, the 5K runners and Fun Run/Walkers broke away from the starting line at about 10:05 a.m. on a sunny Saturday and never looked back.
“After the two laps of the very popular Fletcher Park course were complete, the first runner to cross the line was Bruce Bayliss who took an early lead and held it to turn in a time of 20:06,” Whitaker cited.
Bayliss, a former Lee University running coach, said he was thrilled to see the original announcement of the Barefoot Run 5K in the Cleveland Daily Banner which was approached by local Shoes For Orphan Souls volunteers to serve as primary sponsor. According to Shoes For Orphan Souls leaders, the local newspaper over the years has been instrumental in promoting public awareness of the organization’s global and domestic mission.
Bayliss, 55, who is a believer in the nonprofit’s work, also wants to help promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles in the community.
“I was really glad to see the announcement of this event in the Cleveland Daily Banner,” Bayliss said. “I want to support running as a sport in the Cleveland area in any way I can.”
Bayliss proved his point by taking home the medal for first-place overall in the Male category. At 28:29, Terri Corbin crossed the line first to capture the winner’s medal in the overall Female category.
First place in the Youngest Runner category, under 10, was captured by Alex Taylor while Jeannette Gimbert took the medal for Oldest Runner in the 60-Plus category. Full details about the road race in all categories, and about the event, can be found at www.tennesseerunner.com under “Barefoot Run.”
The participants made the race and the sponsors made the race possible, Gombash said.
“We want to especially thank the Cleveland Daily Banner for their help as primary sponsor of this run,” Gombash said. “We want to thank also all the sponsors whose contributions, along with the runners’ entry fees, have helped to raise enough money to buy a quality pair of athletic-type shoes for about 150 orphans.”
He also recognized a familiar face in the crowd of runners and walkers.
“One of the runners was Keri Parks who raised $105 for the Shoes effort,” Gombash advised. “Keri is remembered for her local ‘[Hair]Bows for Those Who Need New Clothes’ campaign. She took home the medal for the 10-14 age category.”
Gombash pointed out the purchased shoes will be part of the annual Shoes For Orphan Souls collections. This year’s campaign will kick off Aug. 1.
“Almost 3 million pairs of shoes have been distributed to orphans through Shoes For Orphan Souls in the last 14 years,” Gombash stressed. “But, there are about 150 million orphans worldwide so we still have a lot of work to do.”
Although the organization’s outreach is global, it also places shoes on the feet of orphans in America, and specifically in East Tennessee, Whitaker explained.
“Some 30 percent of the shoes collected are placed on the feet of orphans here in the United States, and even in East Tennessee,” Whitaker said. He pointed out Shoes For Orphan Souls works in 74 countries.
He credited the efforts of a Chattanooga radio station WMBW 88.9, which has served as the regional sponsor for the Shoes For Orphan Souls project for the last 12 years.