A simple pair of shoes can serve a great purpose.

Deb Spence has experienced this firsthand. The Boston Marathon alumna has relied on countless shoes to carry her through years of hitting the pavement, but it was one pair in particular that made her appreciate them that much more.

“About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Africa to teach people how to plant gardens with grey water because of the water shortage,” Spence, who is also a long-time supporter of the Mission, said. “At the end of my few weeks there, I saw a girl who didn’t have shoes, and so I took off mine and gave them to her.”

Though the gesture seemed fairly simple to Spence, she could never have anticipated the girl’s reaction to the gift.

“I gave these muddy running shoes to her and I’ve never seen anybody happier in my life. She ran from hut to hut to hut crying, and screaming, and showing everybody her shoes, and it was awesome” Spence remembered.

Years later when it came time for Spence and her husband, Ken Pliska, to open their store, Runners High, they knew they wanted it to be more than just a running shop—they wanted it to be a gateway to help change lives.

Spence went on to describe, “We found an organization that sent shoes to Africa, so every month we send used shoes that people donate when they’re done running with them.”

Then Spence and Pliska heard about Denver Rescue Mission’s partnership with Back on My Feet, a national organization that uses running alongside community and other resources to combat homelessness. They knew that they wanted to contribute locally as well.

“We took both new shoes right out of our inventory, and then talked to our shoe vendors and they donated some new and gently used shoes,” Spence said.

This dynamic duo brought these running shoes to The Crossing on September 9—375 to be exact. From neon orange to sunshine yellow, tables upon tables of colorful shoes filled the dining area inside the transitional living facility. New Life Program and STAR Transitional Program participants were excited for the opportunity to pick out a pair of shoes that fit their own unique personality.

Shoes With a Purpose
Shoes With a Purpose 1
Shoes With a Purpose 2

“Thank you Runners High for these new kicks,” David Foster, a New Life Program participant, said. “Now I can run to my new life even faster.”

For David and the other program participants, these shoes will help them reach distances far beyond staying active. In fact, the shoes will encourage new steps for our participants, in all aspects of their life, toward a better future.

Thank you Deb Spence and Ken Pliska for your incredible support!

Written by: Emily Tromp, PR and Events Intern