Teens Plan Drive To Collect Old Sneakers

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Three young men are raising money for Westhampton Beach’s Middle School soccer team through an unusual program called GreenSneakers.

Cole Hempel, Comeragh Sheehan and Spencer Trager, all 11 and all sixth-graders at the middle school, are busy collecting thousands of used sneakers in order to buy new soccer uniforms and equipment for the team.

The boys, who have been friends since kindergarten, have set up several drop-boxes where the old sneakers can be donated. The boxes are now set up inside their school, at the Westhampton Free Library in Westhampton Beach, and at the Westhampton Yacht Squadron in Remsenburg.

For every pound of old shoes they collect, GreenSneakers—a program created three years ago by the North Dakota-based nonprofit Crown Ministry Group—will give them 50 cents, according to the boys. A single pair of sneakers weighs around a pound, explained John Sheehan, Comeragh’s father.

Cole, Comeragh and Spencer, who have until Saturday, May 4, to collect as many used kicks as they can, said they were inspired by another fundraiser, called Jeans for Teens, that took place at their school in January. As part of that event, students collected gently used jeans for donation to local homeless shelters.

After some internet research, Comeragh said he learned about the Crown Ministry Group and its unusual program that seeks to provide financial assistance to groups in need while simultaneously helping keep the planet green by recycling old shoes and sneakers. After they are collected, the shoes and sneakers are cleaned and refurbished before being shipped to Third World countries, according to the company’s website, www.greensneakers.org.

Mr. Sheehan said the boys have collected more than 200 pairs of sneakers already and anticipate collecting at least 2,000 more, thanks in large part to the Long Island 5K Obstacle Race, which will take place on May 4 at the 4-H Camp in Riverhead. The boys plan to set up donation boxes near the finish line of the race, an event that requires competitors to navigate a muddy obstacle course.

Mr. Sheehan said more than 4,000 people have already signed up for the competition, which promotes physical fitness.

“Our team really needs this,” Comeragh said, regarding their ongoing efforts to raise money for new uniforms.

He later added that their unusual fundraiser has other benefits.

“Do you know that about only one pair in 100 sneakers gets recycled—the rest end up in a landfill?” Comeragh said. “So we should try to recycle, help the soccer club and help people in need around the world.”

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