Komen Philadelphia Helps Collect Thousands of Sneakers for Hurricane Harvey Victims


“We always knew our community is the best at stepping up to help those in need, but  we had no idea this effort would take off the way it did,” said Elaine I. Grobman, CEO of Komen Philadelphia. “Our volunteers were making trips daily from our office to the New Balance warehouse to drop off sneakers we collected at our office—we simply didn’t have enough room to store the near constant donations that were coming in.”

Immediately after Hurricane Harvey devastated communities in Texas, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia teamed up with Geoff Rabinowitz, President of New Balance Southern New Jersey, in an effort to collect hundreds of pairs of sneakers to send to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. But, much to the partners’ surprise—and pleasure—those few hundreds turned into approximately 8,000 pairs of donated, gently used sneakers. In fact, so many sneakers were collected that distribution ended up going to help areas stuck by Hurricane Irma as well. 

The Komen Philadelphia office served as a collection point for the sneakers from Tuesday, September 5 to Friday, September 8. Members of the community were asked to donate their used sneakers in good condition and/or new sneakers, in any size from children to adults. In addition, once the Komen Philadelphia community heard about the sneaker drive, they offered to take their donations directly to the New Balance warehouse, where sneakers were packaged and shipped to Texas and Florida. 

“As a charity we have a responsibility to give back beyond our own mission,” said Grobman. “This sneaker collection is a simple way we can use our resources at hand to  hopefully make an impact on the lives that have been devastated by Harvey and Irma.”

The fabulous results of “Soles with a Heart” offered another powerful lesson about “partners in one being partners in all!” Thousands of the sneakers collected came from groups of Komen Philadelphia supporters who jumped on the opportunity to channel their passion for fighting breast cancer in support of another critical need.

Spring-Ford School District’s 5-7th Grade Center collected 1,438 pairs of sneakers in a matter of days!

“We were so excited over the response that we got from the ‘Soles With A Heart’ campaign… it definitely infuses that there are many good people in the world, and, I love that I am lucky to surround myself with them, including Komen Philadelphia,” said Joy Rubeo, who spearheaded the collection efforts of the Spring-Ford School District’s 5th, 6th and 7th Grade Center. “And, I am so proud and inspired knowing that this came about, in part,  out of a long-term relationship based on another charitable cause—the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure—which we have supported for many years. In more ways than one, we are working together to make this world a better place!”

Spring-Ford, a top Race for the Cure fundraising team every year, was just one of several Komen Philadelphia supporters who rallied to support the campaign. The district’s 5th, 6th and 7th Grade Center collected nearly 1,438 pairs of sneakers. Dietz & Watson, a long-time Komen Philadelphia sponsor, also collected approximate 1,000 pairs. In addition, partners ranging from the organization’s marketing agency, Aloysius Butler & Clark, to community outreach partners in the Asian-American community, as well as private individuals and families, did their part, contributing hundreds of additional sneakers to build the impressive total.

Komen volunteers, Dr. Sidney Grobman and James White deliver another “load” to Geoff Rabinowitz (center) at New Balance Cherry Hill

“With the passion and compassion our community demonstrated for Soles with a Heart, there is no mountain we can’t conquer together—whether that is stopping breast cancer, helping families rebuild after a natural disaster, saving the planet… anything!” Said Grobman. “Here at Komen Philadelphia, we’ve seen this dynamic at work for 28 years. It is the reason there are more than 6 million breast cancer survivors now in the U.S. I for one feel humbled and privileged to be part of such a loving, take-action community.”

With its national headquarters in Dallas, Grobman addressed the special connection the organization has with those impacted by Harvey.

“The heart of Komen and everything we accomplish across the country in the fight to end breast cancer starts in Texas, so what has happened there really hits home for all of us,” said Grobman. “And I know we aren’t alone. People throughout our local neighborhoods have loved ones and acquaintances in Texas now faced with the task of figuratively and literally rebuilding their lives. This sneaker collection campaign is a way we can all send a little comfort to those in need and let them know that we are all here to support them.”


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