Although she works as a physical education teacher on special assignment at all 15 schools in the Saugus Union School District, Sam Ford saw a particular need at Cedar Creek Elementary — for shoes.
“They’re a Title I school, so 80 percent of them are on free or reduced (cost) lunch programs,” said Ford. “And two years ago, I got a bunch of donations for shoes because the students needed them.”
That’s when the idea for “Run Like a Cougar” — a name in reference to the Cedarcreek mascot — came about. Beginning last year, Ford decided to ramp up her efforts to purchase shoes for her students who didn’t have the means to attain proper footwear.
“When I was sizing the children … a child had on shoes that were a size 5. He actually needed a size 7.5,” said Ford. “He didn’t realize his shoes were too small.”
But instead of focusing on getting shoes to a handful of members in a number of grades at Cedar Creek, this year Ford decided to bring more attention and fundraising efforts into the 5th grade classrooms of her school — the kids who need to take the statewide physical education test this year.
“I told them that if they agreed to run 100 miles before they took the test, they would get the shoes,” said Ford. “And I had to explain to them, in a nice, kind way, that just because they have the shoes doesn’t mean they’re in the right size … if your feet hurt everything hurts.”
After she started a fundraising effort on the website DonorsChoose.org, and Dick’s Sporting Goods agreed to do a dollar match program with Ford’s effort, she was able to gain the interest and funds from over 30 donors, whose contributions ranged from $20 to close to $500.
“We were able to get over 50 pairs of shoes to close to two classrooms of students who needed them,” said Ford, who had given the students the shoes they could keep on March 8. “They were so excited. One class was super cute because all their shoes matched, and they were all excited saying stuff like, “Oh we’re one big team now.’”
Ford said this year was only her second year doing this program, and she not only plans to do it once again next year, but also hopes to grow “Run Like a Cougar” by raising awareness about those in need in Santa Clarita’s immediate community.
“I live only eight miles from this school and I had no idea what the situation was like over here,” said Ford. “I think we should start focusing on taking care of our own in our community … because there are people who are truly in need and a little caring goes a long way, especially with kids.”
To learn more about the project “Run Like a Cougar,” visit Ford’s DonorsChoose.org webpage at www.donorschoose.org/we-teach/5829395.