Friday, August 5, 2011 , Updated 8:00 a.m., August 6, 2011
Dallas homeless program ventures to McKinney for downtown race
Almost 130 volunteers currently participate in Back on My Feet with 54 homeless members who live at three Dallas homeless facilities.
McKinney is the next stop for homeless Dallas residents on their journey toward self-sufficiency.
More than 54 residential members of Back on My Feet (BoMF), a nonprofit organization that engages homeless populations through a weekly running regiment as a means to build confidence and self esteem, will be running in the Melon Dash 5K race Saturday in downtown McKinney.
It will be the first race in McKinney for the national organization, which began its Dallas-Fort Worth chapter in February.
"It gives us the opportunity to show members a different part of North Texas," said Chris Jones, executive director for BoMF in Dallas. "So many have been in and around downtown Dallas most of their lives, so it gives them a different perspective on the communities in the area and lets them see places that could be a good place to continue their lives after they succeed in our program."
The Melon Dash Fun Run, once known as the McKinney Historical Run, will begin at 7:45 a.m. Saturday at Chestnut Square located at 314 S. Chestnut St. The marathon will weave through downtown for a showcase of the city's historic district. The run and 5K race will raise funds for the North Texas Cat Rescue, an organization that fosters the adoption and placement of rescued homeless cats.
The event could benefit the BoMF members in ways that go beyond money. Founded in 2007 in Philadelphia, Pa., BoMF is a six- to nine-month program that enables individuals living in homeless facilities to prove their dedication and increase their confidence through weekly training and monthly races. Individual and corporate volunteers team up with the homeless members to run three to four times a week starting at 5:45 a.m.
Members who maintain a 90 percent attendance rate through 30 days in the program receive education and job training such as mock interviews, financial literacy courses and exclusive job fairs. Almost 130 volunteers currently participate in the program with 54 homeless members who live at three Dallas homeless facilities including the Salvation Army, Dallas Life, and The Bridge.
The team training and monthly races comfortably re-acclimate the members to society.
"Experiencing homelessness can be very lonely," said Kristen Kouk, director of communications for BoMF in Dallas-Fort Worth. "They feel like they're on the outside. When they run with our volunteers, they all wear the same gear, so people can't tell who's homeless and who's the (chief executive officer) of a Fortune 500 company."
Jones added that the team dynamic allows the BoMF residential members to avoid the stereotypical homeless labels while they focus on bettering their lives, first through running and then through an occupation.
"The running is just the first step," he said. "It gives them an opportunity to integrate back into society and have conversations with people they might not normally be comfortable talking to. They achieve a sense of family that can go a long way."
Individuals and corporate sponsors such as Marriot, Accenture and Comcast donate funds to BoMF, which spends about $1,800 per member for the program. The organization raises additional funds through "Sneaker Week," when employees at sponsor corporations wear their sneakers to work for a week with each day representing a $5 donation.
Though the BoMF program doesn't guarantee self-sufficiency, Jones said it gives them a head start in that direction.
"They set goals for themselves and follow through on a daily basis," he said. "They maintain their pursuit no matter what the weather is like and show dedication that most people in corporate America don't even have. That's something every employer values."
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