Thieves broke into a storage container on two separate nights and stole hundreds of running shoes from a local nonprofit that helps inner-city kids train for the Los Angeles Marathon.
“When I first started the program, I didn’t have running shoes. I had hiking shoes,” said Andrea Jimenez, an SRLA alumni.
That changed in 2018 when Jimenez joined Students Run LA, the free youth marathon training program that’s helped thousands of students from all over the area compete in the LA Marathon.
“They would give us the shoes in December, so it felt like a Christmas gift, and it felt so rewarding to earn those shoes,” Jimenez said.
Without her shoes, there’d be no way she’d be able to train for her fifth LA Marathon, coming up next March, which is her third marathon since graduating the program in 2020.
“As a student from low income, it gave me the opportunity to feel welcome, to have a sense of belonging,” the SRLA alum said.
This is one of the reasons why the theft was so upsetting. Marsha Charney, executive director of the program, told CBSLA that the shoes they can provide to the young runners are very important.
“These shoes are everything for our kids,” she said.
Nearly 500 pair of the new running shoes, donated by Nike, were taken last week, on two separate days.
“They’re just brazen. We just live in a world where…it’s just such a brazen thing to do,” Charney added.
She believes the thieves were somehow able to open the front gate, break into the storage containers and take about 130 pairs of shoes.
“We bought new locks and we put them inside metal casings, and really felt that we had secured these things,” she said.
However, the thieves returned a few days later with a second vehicle, a white truck captured on a neighboring security camera, and cut a hole in the fence to get to the additional 300 pairs.
“I doubt they’re thinking, ‘Who are these shoes being taken away from?’ Charney said.
Unfortunately, the much needed shoes are being taken from hardworking young athletes, like Jimenez.
“I was sad, angry, frustrated and really heartbroken because these shoes are sometimes, like, the only shoes that students like me are provided and are the only shoes that we can train with,” she said.
Students Run LA said it plans to upgrade its security system, but in the meantime has moved all of their remaining equipment to an off-site storage facility where it’s secure.
Police are urging anyone with information about this incident to contact authorities.