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A photo of students walking in the hall at Notre Dame Academy

Sam Van Straten helping other runners get up to speed

The following piece was published in the 2020 NDA Winter Magazine.

Sam Van Straten took an idea last year and started to make it a reality.

The Notre Dame Academy senior founded the Family Runners’ Locker, which provides free clothing, shoes and race vouchers to minority and underprivileged individuals and families in the greater Green Bay area. 

Van Straten holds a close connection with the community of runners in the area through running in and volunteering at local races since he was 9 years old. However, after reading local and national race statistics, he noticed the lack of racial and financial diversity in the participants. 

“I realized that there are a lot of barriers of entry for people going into running,” Van Straten said. “You have to get clothing, shoes and pay the race entry fee, and it starts to add up really fast to just participate.”

Determined to eliminate those barriers, Van Straten founded the Family Runners’ Locker and started reaching out to organizations in the area for support and donations. His foundation now actively works with the YWCA, Casa ALBA Melanie and the Boys and Girls Club. 

To kick off the fundraising, Van Straten created a video and GoFundMe page and launched it in July. In August, he also completed a 100-mile duathlon from the YWCA to the northernmost tip of Door County, Gills Rock. 

“I did 6 miles of running, then I biked, then I finished the last 6 miles,” Van Straten said. “It’s running and biking, which is something I both enjoy. I also figured it would be good to have the running component there since I’m helping local runners.”

The Family Runners’ Locker has set out boxes at local races and sent out flyers to collect money. Van Straten also spoke with local and regional race directors and has received donations of tech clothing for the Locker.

“I got a lot of stuff from the Bellin Run, the Door County Triathlon, and a ton of shoes from Runaway Shoes,” Van Straten said.

Van Straten has raised over $12,500 in goods and monetary donations. He also just held a clothing drive at all of the GRACE schools to collect more children’s clothing.

The funds are kept at the YWCA along with a full closet of clothes that Van Straten has collected. 

“The YWCA really does a lot of the operations, so that’s why I did it with an organization--so they can keep it going here while I’m in college,” Van Straten said. “But also, I’d like to take this idea because it’s been very successful here and bring it to wherever I go to college.”

Until then, Van Straten plans on growing the Locker to give more running opportunities to a greater number of people in the community.

“Running is something I’ve been doing my entire life,” Van Straten said. “It’s been a great experience for me, and I want other people to have those same opportunities.”

About the Author

Mattea Vecera is a senior at Notre Dame Academy. She loves theatre and journalism. Outside of school, she enjoys writing and all things music. She hopes to continue journalism in her future.

Check out the entire 2020 NDA Winter Magazine online.

About Notre Dame Academy: Notre Dame Academy is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is a co-ed Catholic high school founded by the Norbertine Order, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Diocese of Green Bay. NDA’s distinctive history embraces the more than 120-year foundation of St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School. NDA offers a globally focused education with a leading IB Diploma Program. Its high-caliber educational community is focused on outstanding learning and creating a lifetime of opportunity for all students.