MDRA Foundation Community Giving Grants in 2020

By Tim Pratt

For most runners getting your first pair of running shoes was a life changing moment. A rite of passage. A confirmation that we were making a commitment to our love of running.

As we know running is a committed community. And MDRA members are serving as matchmakers if you will thanks to Community Giving Grants from the MDRA Foundation. Three organizations received grants this year and those organizations are using the grants on shoes, supplies and support for people who are learning to love running as much as we do.

Trinity First Cross Country Team

Trinity First is a Pre-K through eighth grade school in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. Access to outdoor spaces for physical activity is limited. The school started a cross country team as an easy entry way to get students to engage in physical activity. About 30 to 35 students from different cultural backgrounds and ability levels participate.

This year teacher Anna Schield set up a virtual fitness challenge where students can earn a new pair of running shoes. “This will be amazing for our program, because many of our students are from low income families and they come to practice in skateboard shoes, basketball shoes and general, worn out tennis shoes,” said Schield. “Having a pair of new running shoes will make a big difference in terms of their self-confidence, running form and mechanics, and all around physical movement!”

And that physical movement is helping the students more than physically. “It’s been really great to see each runner grow in their self-confidence… as they notice in practices that they are able to complete ‘more laps around the park’ at the end of the season than they could at the beginning of the season,” said Schield.

Patrick Henry Cross Country Team 

Similarly, the cross country team at Patrick Henry High School in the Webber-Camden neighborhood of Minneapolis is using the grant to provide running shoes for their athletes and covering registration fees. In the past coach Emily Noel has used her personal money to cover costs.

“Quality running shoes give kids the confidence and is the first step in seeing themselves as a part of the distance running community,” said Noel. A community she notes is dominated by white culture.

Just like any good team, Noel says, “The athletes have developed a culture of acceptance balanced with a commitment to personal improvement.” Students explore running, get to be part of a community and reach personal goals. “They are committed because they run a little farther, run a little faster, hold that plank a little longer  or stretch a little deeper every day to reach their goals of self-improvement. They are caring because they value and respect their teammates.”

Mile in My Shoes

Mile in My Shoes (MiMS) is based in homeless shelters and re-entry centers for people exiting incarceration. Every new Resident Member is outfitted with a new pair of running shoes and a full set of new running gear. Additionally, Members receive incentives like a GPS running watch as they achieve milestones. The MDRA grant will help cover these costs along with additional equipment such as safety gear and hydration belts.

Just like the schools, MiMS sees their participants grow physically and mentally. “MiMS is a catalyst for community building, boosting health and wellness, building leadership and self-efficacy and spurring personal and social action,” according to Executive Director Mishka Vertin.

“We have had dozens of our runners over the years complete the Twin Cities Marathon and City of Lakes Half Marathon while living at a shelter or halfway house. For those of you who have completed a distance like this – recall what it was like to train for that first long distance race. Now imagine doing that while sleeping in a room with hundreds of other people each night, having to carry around everything you owned all day and having little control over your nutrition. Those are our runners!”

Your role could go beyond the grant. Members are matched with Run Mentors. You can sign up to be a Mentor on the MiMS website

All the grantees have a message for MDRA members, “Thank you!” “I just so appreciate MDRA for joining the running community in supporting each other and for having such a large role in that support. Thank you for all the work you do in so many areas, including helping younger runners develop an appreciation for not only running, but healthy habits of physical fitness and wellness in general,” said Trinity First’s Anna Schield.

The MDRA Foundation is set to participate in the 12th annual Give to the Max Day, set to take place Thursday, Nov. 19. 100% of #GTMD20 donations will be used to fund grants.


Tim Pratt ran track and cross country in high school, and then took a hiatus until he turned 40. He first trained with MDRA after winning a free entry into the Twin Cities Marathon. So far, he has completed seven marathons, eight half marathons, ten triathlons and numerous other races. He’s a proud MDRA member and loves the supportive atmosphere of the training classes and races.

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