A Running Start is a young foundation with a mission of improving the lives of young East Africans through sport. The organization sponsors schools and training camps in Kenya and remote regions of Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda to identify and develop promising student athletes and to help them earn scholarships to US universities. It’s an unusual approach. Karl Keirstead, A Running Start’s founder, explains: “To really alter lives in Africa, an organization needs either a very large budget (which we don’t have), or needs to target fewer but high-impact individuals. Individuals who, by putting a bit of wind in their sail, can take off.” Instead of touching the lives of many people superficially, A Running Start changes the lives of a smaller number profoundly.
In the US, athletic ability has long been a means for some who couldn’t otherwise afford it to obtain a college education and a chance at a better life. A Running Start enables young people from some of the poorest countries in Africa to take the same path. But its impact does not end with the individual. Their experience and education give them the perspective, the skills, and the means to give back to their families and villages. They are teachers, business people, and engineers, able to make more than just a financial difference.
Running is ideally suited to this approach. The region is rich in talent and it’s largely an individual effort. But success also depends on discipline and dedication, traits that also contribute to academic success. And running is not resource intensive; all it takes for many athletes to reach their potential is a good coach, food and housing, and educational assistance. When they do reach that potential, they are in high demand: The programs A Running Start sponsors can secure a runner a U.S. university education for $300.
A Running Start sponsors running camps that house, feed, and coach 300 runners. The camps also provide educational assistance, including SAT preparation classes. In 2008 alone, they sent 140 high school graduates to US universities on scholarship.
A Running Start’s outreach begins at an early age and helps even non-college bound children finish their primary education. Most African countries don’t provide support for youth or junior-level sports. A Running Start helps fill this void, introducing kids to the merits of sport and giving them a reason to remain in school. They also pay high school tuition for impoverished but talented athletes, and contribute to the building of new classroom buildings at local primary schools.
The funds that enable A Running Start to do this good work come primarily from people like you. Many know the transformative power of running and education firsthand.
A Running Start raises awareness of its cause by sponsoring teams of volunteers at events across the country. I’m a member of a team representing A Running Start at the New York City triathlon. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to compete because of an injury sustained in a charity ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis society, but I am committed to meeting my fundraising goal.
If you would like to contribute, please visit my personalized fundraising page. Your donation goes directly to the foundation.
If you prefer to pay by check, please make it out to A Running Start Foundation, write my name on the memo line, and mail it to:
A Running Start Foundation
315 Bleeker Street, Suite 291
New York, NY 10014