Back on My Feet (BOMF) is a non-profit organization committed to helping the homeless through running. Based in Philadelphia, marathoner Anne Mahlum organizes group runs with volunteers and those who are homeless.
From the BOMF website:
Philosophy: Back on My Feet does not provide food nor does it provide shelter, but instead provides a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership. There are no labels, no stigmas and no stereotypes. At Back on My Feet, all members - regardless of race, education or socioeconomic status - join together to move their own lives forward as well as the lives of their teammates. Back on My Feet is much more than just running - it is a comprehensive program that offers connections to job training, educational scholarships and housing assistance. The benefits of Back on My Feet are earned through the currency of attitude, commitment, teamwork, respect, dedication and leadership.
Our Vision - Back on My Feet envisions a community where all members have the support and motivation required to move towards self –sufficiency. Every major city has a homeless problem and while providing food and shelter are very important basic needs, something is missing. We work to rebuild, revive and re-energize individuals. It is only when we have the self-respect, self-confidence that we are truly able to move forward. Back on My Feet focuses on helping our members find a road of happiness, hope and opportunity, which includes a stable job and a place to live. This is our goal and we will get there one step at a time
I had the privilege of meeting volunteers from BOMF last year at the Philadelphia Marathon (I must admit I don't remember if I spoke with Anne, or other volunteers at the BOMF booth). My friend J bought a headband from the group. We were both really impressed by the program and enjoyed speaking with the volunteers who spoke very passionately about the program.It made me so happy to hear that Anne won a CNN Hero award this year. It's heart-warming to know that small efforts like Anne's don't go unnoticed. And with this publicity, hopefully support will increase for the program and more people can be helped.
From a CNN report back in October:
Read the whole thing.
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- At 5 a.m. on any given day, Anne Mahlum could be found running the dark streets of Philadelphia -- with homeless men cheering her on as she passed their shelter. But one morning last spring, she stopped in her tracks.
"Why am I running past these guys?" recalls Mahlum, 27. "I'm moving my life forward every day -- and these guys are standing in the same spot."
Instead of continuing to pass them by, the veteran marathoner sprang into action so they could join her.
She contacted the shelter, got donations of running gear, and in July 2007 the "Back On My Feet" running club hit the streets.
The first day, Mahlum led nine shelter residents in a mile-long run. Today, Back on My Feet has teams in three Philadelphia shelters, including 54 homeless members and more than 250 volunteers. The group has logged more than 5,000 miles.
Requirements for shelter residents to join are simple -- they must live in an affiliated facility and be clean and sober for 30 days. Members receive new shoes and running clothes, and teams run together three times a week between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
The runners are diverse -- doctors, janitors, students and shelter residents -- but such distinctions aren't apparent.
"All you can tell is who's the fastest," says Mahlum. "You can't tell who's homeless and who's not."
For Mahlum and others, Back On My Feet is more than a running club."We're a community of support, love, respect," she says.
Interested in giving to BOMF?
Currently there are only programs in Philadelphia, with a pilot program beginning in Baltimore this coming March. If you are in either of these cities and would like to volunteer, go to the BOMF website and click on "How Can I Help."
Alternatively, you can give a donation, become a "fundraiser" with your next race, or simply purchase BOMF merchandise. Again, just go to the website and click "How Can I Help."