“I want to be healthy and feel good. I need to start getting healthy habits in my life after realizing that I was harming myself by following the lifestyle I had. I like to swim, but I don’t have the access to do so.
I feel that having a sponsorship would give me more motivation to push myself to do it. It also would give me goals to reach and confidence that I can do it.”
– Laces to Races Recipient
Article by Meredith Stoll and Troy Skwor
Annie’s Locker’s (AL) mission is to inspire and equip others to live healthier lives. We are always brain-storming looking for innovative ways to address the needs of the community. One new program Annie’s Locker has started is the “Laces to Races“ program. Since Annie’s Locker started, our organization has continually reached out to the residents from the Rockford Rescue Mission (RRM). Over the years, our involvement has ranged from personally walking with the residents and inspiring them to become more physically fit, to purchasing a fitness center within their facility, to providing athletic shoes and gear, to awarding them race sponsorships. Through these interactions and conversations with residents while doing daily volunteer work like serving and preparing food at RRM, Annie’s Locker identified an area they could once again reach out and support. This involved helping RRM graduates transition back into society. Annie’s Locker realized that program participants might not be able to afford a gym membership so their hard work staying in shape while overcoming life’s challenges at the RRM might become weak. As a result, Annie’s Locker worked with the YMCA and RRM, as well as Rosecrance, to start a “Laces to Races” program.
The program was set up to help graduates of both programs transition better into our community. Through the Y membership, they can continue to workout, thus aiding in overcoming personal struggles, as well as meet other people who could also befriend and inspire them to reach their goals. The program provides necessary athletic shoes and requires participants to workout at least twice a week for all three months of membership. Throughout the three months, Annie’s Locker stays in communication with them hoping to provide additional inspiration with their personal goals. At the culmination of the program, they receive a free race sponsorship. This might be some of the recipients‘ first official race and, don’t worry, Annie’s Locker will be right next to them in their wings supporting them through the finish line.
Participants in Laces to Races have experienced some of the toughest challenges in life. When a person has experienced addiction, homelessness or domestic abuse, making the decision to push oneself toward a health goal is something Annie’s Locker greatly admires. Our participants understand that their physical health is inextricably linked to their emotional well-being, and we try to bring them full circle, as the name of our program implies. We provide gear, access to facilities, ongoing support and race goal to help them on their journey.
Jane graduated from the women’s program at the Rockford Rescue Mission and continued to stay in close contact with the staff there. After expressing a desire to increase her level of fitness, the RRM staff told her about an opportunity with Annie’s Locker. Jane decided that, even though getting back on her feet and stabilizing her life was challenge enough on it’s own, she needed to focus on her well-being. She knew it could help to decrease stress and offset some health problems that had been plaguing her for years. She got set up with shoes and began at the YMCA. After talking through some plans with Annie’s Locker board members. Jane is now in her final month of her program, attending the YMCA at least 3 days per week and well on her way to being ready for the Arny Johnson 5k in the spring.
If you ever visit the Y, you may very well see Jane on a treadmill, or Susan in the pool or Mark in spin class. They have all experienced enormous challenges and have recommitted to health by being open to the support of our running community. We are honored to support them through Laces to Races, and cannot wait to see them at the finish line.