Christmas came early for Cassandra Hernandez, a 6-year-old Fort Collins girl who received a brand new pair of sneakers on Friday evening.
The sneakers were donated through Run for Your Life Colorado, a non-profit organization that provides shoes to children in low-income families throughout northern Colorado.
Run for Your Life Colorado educates the community of the need for childrenâ€™s shoes through benefit nights at various Fort Collins restaurants. Tonight, CB & Potts will donate 10 percent of all restaurant profits made between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to Run for Your Life Colorado.
â€œItâ€™s eye opening,â€ said Paul Higgins, the organizationâ€™s founder. â€œThese kids are just happy to have shoes.â€
It was in November 2009 that Higgins decided to form the organization.
â€œI woke up one morning and knew I needed to do something to help the community,â€ said the 47-year-old Fort Collins resident.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.6 percent of Larimer County lived below the poverty line in 2008, leaving many families unable to provide proper footwear for their children.
â€œOne little boy had to sit out in gym class because the only shoes he had were a pair of work boots,â€ Higgins said.
As a runner and father of two young boys, Higgins wanted to make sure that every child could experience a healthy, active lifestyle by owning a nice pair of sneakers.
With five different shoe donation bins throughout northern Colorado, the organization has given out 76 pairs of shoes to children in need over the past eight months, well exceeding their original goal of 50 pairs.
Most of the support for the organization comes from Poudre Valley Hospital, where Higgins has worked as a nurse for more than a decade. Many of his co-workers shared his passions for helping others and living a healthy lifestyle, including Spencer Dries, a fellow Poudre Valley Health System employee.
Now a member of the Board of Directors for Run for Your Life Colorado, Dries helps deliver donated shoes to children.
â€œWhen we give them the shoes, they have to sign a pledge card saying theyâ€™ll be active for 30 more minutes a day, five days a week,â€ Dries said. â€œWe want to instill the thoughts of healthy lifestyles early on.â€
The organization has also been working with the Healthy Kids Club, a program through PVHS that also promotes active lifestyles for children.
Through this club, children can run in races throughout Colorado, receiving prizes for each race they participate in.
AJ Patti, general manager of CB & Potts, would ideally like to see about 500 diners come in to show their support for the fundraiser.
â€œItâ€™s really nice to bring it home and have that in-town tie,â€ said Higginsâ€™ wife, Nikki, about hosting the fundraiser at the local restaurant. â€œAnd the food is really good.â€
Benefit nights arenâ€™t the only fundraisers Higgins plans to host, though. With dreams of organizing a Run for Your Life Colorado race in the near future, Higgins wife has to bring him back down to earth.
â€œPaulâ€™s an idea man,â€ Nikki Higgins said about her husband. â€œHe dreams big.â€
Staff writer Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.