Green Bay brothers go the extra mile to keep classmates in running shoes

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Kiernan brothers of Green Bay have big hearts and a passion for running. Now they're looking to expand a program that keeps underprivileged classmates in new running shoes.

Joel Kiernan started the Green Bay Shoe Closet at East High School. It provides running shoes to students who may not be able to afford a new pair.

"Running has really been a big part of my life. I've learned a lot through running. It's a lot about positivity, perseverance and hard work," Joel Kiernan tells Action 2 News.

Joel wanted to share that joy with other runners. When he was a sophomore, the cross country athlete learned about a classmate who could run a mile in under five minutes. However, that student was continually hurt from wearing old, worn-out shoes.

"That got me thinking, what if there was a program that provided running shoes to students below the poverty line, so this wouldn't be an issue anymore and could run injury-free and open up all these lessons and opportunities running has to offer," Joel says.

Joel wrote grants and secured donations to create the Green Bay Shoe Closet. The charity is run through the Green Bay Area Public School District. It secures new shoes for track and cross country runners who otherwise couldn't afford them.

CLICK HERE for the Green Bay Shoe Closet website.

Joel and his brother, Peter, have raised more than $4,000 and provided 33 pairs of shoes to students. It's a confidential program and privacy of the recipients is protected.

"It's completely volunteer-run," Joel says. "One-hundred percent of donated funds goes toward the cause."

Joel and Peter want to expand the program to all Green Bay Area Public high schools. Peter will take over when Joel graduates in spring.

On Wednesday, the Kiernans presented their plans at the Bellin Run Corporate Kickoff Challenge.

"Right now it would take around 6,000 a year, 1500 dollars per school per year. So that would be our goal to get from this fundraiser," Peter says.

Joel participated in the Bellin Kids for Running Program when he was in elementary school. The run's executive director is excited to see the brothers' passion partner with Bellin, leading others to a healthy lifestyle.

"It does warm my heart because I was someone that needed shoes to run myself when I was little," says Randy Van Straten, Executive Director, Bellin Run. "And a pair of shoes from a coach got me involved in running. So it does just ring true to my heart."