Foot Locker: Giving Sole

Foot Locker’s position as a leading retailer extends far beyond the sales floor.

For two decades, the athletic chain has focused on supporting education-based causes and sports programs in the U.S. The company continues its work raising awareness for issues through ongoing efforts such as its annual On Our Feet gala and the Foot Locker Scholar Athletes scholarship program.

“As a strong company, we firmly believe in supporting our core value to act responsibly for the communities in which we live and work,” said President, CEO and Chairman Ken Hicks. “Through the years, we have developed significant partnerships, programs and initiatives in our markets that benefit both our customers and associates.”

Past campaigns have included the “Foot Locker Cool School Video” program, which extended from 1989 to ’99, and challenged middle school students to create videos with a positive “stay in school” message. Foot Locker also worked with Fila for three years in the ’90s to replace basketball court equipment and maintain nets and rims at schools in New York City, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

In more recent years, Foot Locker Foundation Inc. — founded in 2001 and currently headed by Hicks — has continued the brand’s mission of providing opportunities for today’s youth, said Lori Anne Kober, VP of public relations. Programs supported include the On Our Feet gala, an annual October event that taps athletic industry insiders and vendors such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Converse, as well as athletes, to raise money for various charities, she said.

Originally started in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, the fête has since supported organizations including the United Way of New York City, which provides aid to low-income citizens in New York, and national children’s literacy nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental. Last year, the gala supported the United Negro College Fund; attendees included Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross, CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, Geno Smith of the New York Jets, and New York Giants players Aaron Ross, Prince Kelechi Amukamara and Terrell Thomas.

For its 14th year in 2014, the gala will take place on Oct. 21 at New York’s Gotham Hall, and will benefit educational initiatives and other programs supported by the Foundation, including Scholar Athletes and UNCF, Kober said.

The Foundation has run the Foot Locker Scholar Athletes program since 2011, granting $20,000 college scholarships to students demonstrating excellence in academics, sports and leadership within their communities. The initiative, which last year granted funds to 20 recipients, represents a $400,000 yearly commitment, Kober said.

Students seeking to qualify for the scholarship are asked to submit applications that show their involvement in high school and/or community-based sports programs. They must also meet minimum GPA requirements, and provide faculty recommendations and personal essays.

“For the past three years, we’ve had the distinct privilege of witnessing firsthand the incredible impact our scholarship program has had on exceptionally talented and deserving students, particularly those who may not have had the opportunity to even attend college [otherwise],” Hicks said.

John Bender, one of the 2013 Foot Locker Scholar Athletes, is a sophomore studying chemical engineering at Columbia University. “[The scholarship] has given me the opportunity to further my education … one that may not have existed previously without the extra financial support,” he said. “Becoming a Foot Locker Scholar Athlete has changed my life.”

Foot Locker’s philanthropy is not only tied to financial contributions. One example of grassroots community efforts includes the Cross Country Championships, which the company has hosted since 1979. The yearly event gives 10 boys and 10 girls from four regional races the opportunity to compete in San Diego for national titles. Noted alumni include Meb Keflezighi, who placed second in the boys’ race in the 1993 National Finals. In April of this year, Keflezighi became the first U.S. runner to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years. (Other famous alumni-turned-Olympians include Jen Rhines, Amy Rudolph, Alan Webb and Ryan Hall.)

Foot Locker has also worked with the Fred Jordan mission in Los Angeles since 1989, participating in its annual “Back-to-School” giveaways of shoes and food.

“It’s great to see these children walking out with these free pairs of shoes, and they’re just so pumped,” Kober said. She added that the retailer donated nearly 4,000 pairs last year and more than 125,000 pairs over the past 25 years.

Outside of companywide programs, Foot Locker’s various divisions often work on brand-specific community efforts. For example, Kids Foot Locker partners with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, while Lady Foot Locker releases exclusive footwear lines for retail that bolster the Foot Locker Foundation’s support for the American Cancer Society.

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