Joseph Fuller is currently a junior at Saint Leo University where he is a two-time NCAA Cross Country Nationals qualifier, as well as being part of the three-time Sunshine State Conference Championship team for the Lions. Fuller also volunteers with the Special Olympics, and is a Merit Badge Counselor with the Boys Scouts of America.
It was with this community interaction that ultimately led Joe to make a decision that would change the lives of people he did not know, and would never be able to meet. On his twenty-first birthday, with the desire to solve a need that goes unnoticed by millions of Americans every day, Joe made the decision to start the I Play Track Foundation. The I Play Track Foundation is a charitable organization designed to solve issues affecting runners everywhere.
“There is an overwhelming problem that numerous student-athletes around the United States are currently facing,” said Joe. “They lack proper running shoes. There are so many runners that just do not have the money to purchase additional pairs of shoes.” Typically running shoes last only 200 to 300 miles, and many athletes are well past that mark.
The other issue runners often face is on the opposite end of the spectrum: what to do with old running shoes or last year’s model?
“There are runners out there who are able to purchase a new pair of shoes every season, or when a new model becomes available, but many of these individuals don’t know what to do with their old pairs of shoes and end up tossing them out, or putting them into the closet,” said Joe.
The idea to start the I Play Track Foundation came to Joe after years of competing and seeing so many student-athletes who didn’t have the proper running shoes, or shoes that were full of holes and tears.
“It became my goal to be able to provide every student who has a desire to run with a pair of proper-fitting shoes,” said Joe. “A student who desires to run should have only have to worry about training, not when they can afford the next pair of shoes.”
St. Leo University has provided Joe the opportunity to compete on a national level, which in turn has allowed him to come into contact with numerous coaches and athletes who would be able to provide him with an effective way to discover and supply runners with proper shoes.
“When it comes to competitive running, shoes really make a difference, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well,” said Joe. “It really motivates them to excel in all aspects of life. I am an excellent example of the idea with athletic achievement there will be academic achievement.”
For some, I Play Track Foundation’s name may be confusing, or sound a bit odd, but when asked about the name he chose for his organization. Many young athletes are asked: “What sport do you play?’ Which for runners, it can often be frustrating trying to explain how you run cross country, or road racing, or the events you run in track, so Joe took an commonly frustrating question and made it into a positive, that he can proudly tell people, “I play track.”
To date, Joe has been able to deliver more than 50 pairs of shoes in over five different states, but unfortunately a daunting number of requests have gone unfilled due to lack of resources.
“Sometimes, I just simply lack enough sizes to meet the requests I have for the specific shoe or spike sizes,” said Joe. “I think people would be shocked by the demand for these types of shoes. I would like to see the future of running get better, and I truly believe this organization will be able to make that happen. I have seen how far a small spark of motivation can carry someone.”
Although Joe is far from his goal, he isn’t close to being satisfied with the amount of shoes he has been able to deliver in six short months, the shoes the I Play Track Foundation has been able to deliver has allowed runners to qualify for state competitions, set new personal records, and left coaches wishing words could adequately express the joy and thankfulness on their runners’ faces.
I Play Track Foundation is a living dream for Joe. He is able to give back to the running community—a community he loves.
“I was lucky enough to be able to have a variety of coaches from veteran marathoners, track specialist, and even an Olympic Gold Medalist whose positive examples have built me up and provided me with enough support and guidance to give me the chance to succeed,” said Joe.
I Play Track Foundation is currently accepting running shoes and spikes and taking requests for shoes. If you or someone you know is getting rid of, or are no longer in need of running shoes, please consider donating them.
For more information, check out the I Play Track Foundation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/
For the month of February Fit Life will donate 10% of all online sales to I Play Track Foundation visit www.fitlifeactive.com to purchase your gear!