Changing lives in Guatemala, one pair of running shoes at a time
Edgar Hernandez didn’t own a pair of shoes until he was 14 years old. Shoes, in fact, were the least of his worries. His mother died when he was 10 and, as the third of nine children, he took over many of the household chores. He went to school, made tortillas for his brothers and sisters and tried to keep out of trouble. And then he discovered running.
With running, Edgar found a way to escape the trials of life in poverty-stricken Guatemala. He ran so much he won many races, in spite of lacking proper footwear. He felt stronger, healthier and more hopeful. And, as he began running races and doing well, a kind sponsor gave him his first pair of shoes. That gift changed his life.
Edgar knew he wanted to do something big for the sport of running — and for kids like him who were growing up in poverty, hunger and violence. Years later, he was able to pay his gift forward. Not with just one pair of shoes but with thousands.
“If somebody tomorrow changes a gun or knife for a pair of shoes and begins to train for a sport, I would be the happiest person on Earth.” — Erick Barrondo, Guatemalan Olympic silver medalist in 20 km walk
Mission Atletica gives hope to youth throughout Guatemala
The idea for Mission Atletica was formed in 2003 when, working for a non-profit, Edgar noticed a box of used running shoes that had been donated to the organization. He asked if he could take the shoes for runners like himself. The idea took off. To date he has collected and donated over 2,500 pairs of shoes to youth in Guatemala.
Mission Atletica is an award winning non-profit organization that has been recognized for its humanitarian efforts by the Marin County Human Rights Commission and the Consul General of Guatemala in San Francisco. Edgar and his team of volunteers now collect running shoes from individuals, charitable organizations, retailers and manufacturers in the San Francisco Bay Area. We hope to extend the program regionally, statewide and eventually nationally.
Adding purpose to the passion, Mission Atletica now sponsors running races as well.
No shoes collected by Mission Atletica go to landfills.
About 40 percent of the shoes we collect are suitable for reuse by runners in Guatemala. The average Guatemalan is shorter and smaller than the average American, so donated shoes that are too large (about 10%) are given to charitable organizations to sell to their customers. The remainder are not suitable for reuse and are given to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program.
Nike says on its web site, “Nike Reuse-a-Shoe takes worn out athletic shoes and grinds them down to create a new material called Nike Grind, which is used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.”
Learn more about the Nike recycle program.
Mission Atletica is a 501C(3) non-profit organization. Marin Link Inc. serves as the fiscal sponsor.