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Kevin Schnepf, Published August 15 2013

Fargo Marathon officials start delivering shoes for kids as part of new program

WEST FARGO – Boxes of running shoes – lots of boxes – got delivered to seven West Fargo elementary schools Thursday, with more targeted for schools in Fargo and Moorhead the next two weeks.

It’s all part of “The Shoes for Kids” program that started last year during the Fargo Marathon. Thanks to 8,000 runners competing in the marathon’s 5-kilometer run last spring, a total of $20,000 was raised to purchase 1,000 pairs of Nike Pegasus running shoes targeted for the youth of the Fargo-Moorhead community.

“This campaign represents an opportunity for the Fargo Marathon organization to give back something that is tangible, and hopefully, something that will help kids from the community stay focused on a healthy lifestyle,” said Mark Knutson, executive director of the Fargo Marathon. “Hopefully this encourages some of these kids to stay active and pick up running someday.”

Here is how the campaign works: $1 for each registration of last spring’s 5K run goes into the pool of funds. The Dakota Medical Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota match each dollar.

Knutson said, after the matches, a total of $20,000 was raised to purchase the $70 running shoes at a discount of just $20 each. All in all, shoes will be delivered to 30 elementary schools in the Fargo-Moorhead community.

“Some of these kids show up every day for school with bad shoes or no shoes at all,” Knutson said. “Some of the schools distribute the shoes based on the needs of the kids. Some schools use it as a reward for excellence in school. Either way, I’m excited to keep this campaign going.”

Knutson said he would like to hand out as many as 2,000 pairs of shoes next year.

“We believe that reducing barriers to physical activity is a cornerstone from improving health across all ages and demographics, especially for children,” said Paul von Ebers, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

Pat Traynor, executive director of the Dakota Medical Foundation, agrees.

“Walking and running are the simplest of activities,” Traynor said. “By providing running shoes to children who need them, it is one small way to increase the likelihood they will be physically active. Habits of youth are likely to become habits of adulthood.”

The Fargo Marathon, which has increased in participation with all of its races from 2,000 to more than 20,000 since 2005, will observe its 10th anniversary next spring.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549