In the unlikely plains of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, was a dream to become an Olympic athlete.
Surrounded by poverty and orphaned at the age of 12, Billy Mills found running as a positive outlet. It soon became clear that his outlet was a gift – one that eventually brought him to the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Mills came from behind as a complete under-dog to win gold in the 10,000-meter race and is still the only American who holds that record.
Now, Mills tours the country and speaks to the youth in American Indian communities through the Running Strong Organization – inspiring them to embrace their heritage.
Pretty amazing, right?
We had the chance to meet Billy at an event last month, and were blown away by his passion to continuing giving back to American Indians all over the country.
Billy shared with us that until the night before the Olympic games in 1964, he had never had a new pair of shoes. Never. Had. A. New. Pair. Of. Shoes. He was 26 years old when he competed in the games.
As a young man, he ran to find an escape. He continued running in high school and college, without the proper footwear.
Billy shared his story with us because he knows firsthand how important new athletic shoes are to the development and well-being of children. He wanted us to share his story with you because the help you are giving kids really does make a huge difference. Because of you, future Billy Mills will be able to run with the support of good shoes and good people.
For us, it’s not just about giving children in need a new pair of shoes. It’s about the confidence, dignity and joy that a brand new pair of shoes can fill a child with. For a child who is facing so many other difficulties, like poverty, it’s a symbol of hope.
For the one in five children living in poverty in the United States today, those gestures are few and far between but when made, they can be impactful for years to come.
A dream come true really can be as simple as a pair of shoes.