After a four-year run, Mackenzie Bier is handing down her shoe charity to a family friend.
Back in Grade 9, the 17-year-old Leasider started the Thorncliffe Park Running Shoe Drive after learning students at Thorncliffe Park Public School could not participate in gym class because their families could not afford the proper footwear.
Toronto District School Board rules stipulate that athletic running shoes should be worn for safe participation during phys-ed.
“I was very active when I was younger and gym was by far my favourite class,” Bier said, in a mid-April interview. “I kind of felt like this was an important thing to take on.”
Now, with university on the horizon, Bier sought out someone to fill the slipper and continue to ask students at Leaside High School to donate their gently used runners, and family friend Caroline Spitzer stepped up.
The Grade 10 student is friends with Bier’s sister, Kennedy, and attends Crestwood Preparatory School. They’re not only neighbours but they’ve been friends since their days at Rolph Road Elementary School.
The 15-year-old has been a big supporter of the program and is looking to expand it in the Leaside community. She will continue to collect the shoes, wash them and take them to Thorncliffe Park.
“If we could find a way for all kids to take part, I thought it would be really cool,” she said, in a phone interview.
Spitzer has spoken with Bessborough Drive Elementary and Middle School principal, Patricia Broderick about setting up a bin for donations there. She has also considered her school, Crestwood, as another collecting location. Donations are open to the public as well as to the schools.
“I think it’s a really good way educate people at how privileged we are and how much we take for granted,” she said.
Bier’s work earned her a Sesquicentennial Award from Don Valley West MP Rob Oliphant in February.
Oliphant discovered Bier’s charity through an article written by Don Valley West councillor, Jon Burnside, who also played a role in connecting Bier with Spitzer. Each MP was provided 20 pins from Heritage Canada to give to members of the community, but Oliphant expanded on that idea and minted 100 commemorative coins.
Bier happened to be one of the additional 100.
“Some people were nominated, but others were examples of good citizenship over the year,” Oliphant said, in early April. “When I was inspired and thought that I wanted to be a better Canadian because of them, I gave them an award. Mackenzie was one of those people.”
There are often two worlds in his riding, Oliphant added, saying that often Leaside and York Mills don’t intermix with Thorncliffe Park.
Bier helped blaze a new path.
“There was an entrepreneurial spirit, a charitable spirit and I thought there was a fitness and health spirit. All of those combined made it a good citizenship award,” Oliphant said.
Even though Bier will be attending university in the fall, (she’s deciding where), she’ll keep in touch with her successor who’ll fill her shoes.
“I’ve been doing this for four years and it’s the thing to give back to the community. I was really privileged (to do so),” Bier said. “I’m going to keep communicating with [Spitzer] and the future people to see how it goes.”