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‘Tis the Season to Give Back – An Interview with Wendy Lee

Posted by on Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 11:35 am | Leave a reply

“Our company was founded on the principle of helping others. It starts with our commitment to our community and continues with our involvement with a diverse range of philanthropic organizations both here and abroad.”

 

Is this a running company? Yes, it is. And, yes, this is what’s written at the top of Newton’s Global Responsibility page. “It’s my dad,” explains Wendy Lee, whose dad, Jerry Lee, is CEO and cofounded Newton Running together with Danny Abshire, CTO. “Honestly, when he founded the company with Danny, he was at a point where he had been very successful in his previous career. He said, ‘If I’m going to start another company, and particularly a running shoe company, the reason I’m doing it is to help other people.’ It starts with him and he made the philosophy from the beginning and made it understood.” Lee, who is Director of Global Sustainability and oversees Newton’s initiatives in this arena, adds, “Of course, we want to make the best running shoe and provide the best running education, but at the end of the day we want to help the lives of other people.”

And this isn’t just a Jerry and Danny thing. Employees hear about social responsibility in their initial interviews and are introduced to it in the orientation process. It’s also written into job descriptions. “Every employee needs to be involved with social responsibility to whatever level possible. Everyone knows that’s what we stand for and that’s why we exist.  It’s not just something we do on the side, this is why we exist and I find that people really like it and get excited,” explains Lee.

So what exactly does all this talk mean?

  • Prostate Cancer Foundation:

    Newton has supported the prostate cancer foundation for many years. Lee’s dad and founder, Jerry, is a prostate cancer survivor (since 2005), so she says, they feel strongly about that one. Newton Running also sponsors team athlete Winter Vinecki, who lost her dad to prostate cancer and races to raise funds to fight the disease.

Memorial

  • Team Kokua:

    Newton has always encouraged athletes to participate in triathlon, while raising funds for causes that hit close to home, such as prostate cancer. In 2013, Newton partnered with the Ironman Foundation to create an ambassador team of 45 athletes. This team of athletes not only raced, but they were charged with raising funds and participating in direct service projects to give back to designated non-profits in the communities in which they were racing. The team has raised $70,000 so far, and Lee is hoping they will break $100,000. Most recently, the team was in Arizona where they organized a track and field day at a school, and then presented a check to the school to go toward a PE program and physical fitness. Next year, Lee says she expects the team will have closer to 60 athletes.

Team 2

  • Trickle Up:

    Newton has sponsored Trickle Up since 2008. It is an organization that provides education, training and grants for some of the world’s poorest people to develop microenterprises. “It’s a small charity, but they do incredible work,” says Lee. “Trickle Up focuses on the extreme poor, who seem to be overlooked by other charities. They are left out because they are so isolated and impoverished. They live on under $1.50 a day. There are a lot of people, especially women with children living under this poverty line. The quality of life is very low.” 

Trickle Up works with local organizations to help train these women how to start their own businesses, usually in textiles or farming. They help these women to establish their own micro-economy and to have a sustainable economy for themselves, which then allows their kids to go to school and to get an education. Each season, Newton chooses a shoe from which a $1 per sale goes to the Trickle Up campaign.

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  • One World Running:

    This Boulder-based, nationwide, volunteer-run organization takes in used running shoes, cleans them up and delivers them to impoverished villages around the world. When they deliver them, they typically host a race in the village the next day. Newton Running has donated more than 5,000 pairs of mostly new shoes to the organization. “We have a constant stock that we donate to them,” says Lee.

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  • Back on my Feet:

    This group is east coast based with offices around the country. Back On My Feet organizes running groups for homeless shelters. They meet once or twice a week in the morning and run as a group. Newton donates shoes for every participant in each of the locations around the country (more than 1,000 pairs).

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Being a company that does the right thing also means that after Hurricane Sandy hit, Jerry Lee spontaneously gave 100s of pairs of running shoes that the company had brought to sell at the New York marathon expo to a group of firefighters who happened to be walking through the expo. They in turn donated the shoes to survivors of the hurricane.  Likewise, shoes have been sent to the Philippines and the company even helped their own community after the Colorado floods sent water gushing through Newton’s backyard this fall.  “We are always ready to help where we can,” says Lee. The company also gives a discount to military members.

Although Jerry Lee won’t toot his own horn, his daughter will, as will Newton employees who have witnessed the giving firsthand. Lee encourages others in the running community to do the same, to look around and see where there is a need. “If there’s any way to help, then do it. Be aware of what’s going on and get involved.” She adds, “We have so much to be thankful for, our health and our well being, particularly when you think about the flooding and the fires that have happened in our own backyard. We’re thankful as a company for our customers and their support of us. We have been fortunate and continue to be so as a company, so it’s our responsibility to give back. It’s what we do.”

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Just say “Yes”: Winter’s World Marathon Tour for prostate cancer

Posted by on Friday, July 19, 2013 @ 9:14 am | Leave a reply

Very few can truly say they grew up in Newtons. In 2007, the year that Newton Running Company launched, my foot was too small for them. I was just 8 years old and already a seasoned runner, competing in 5K’s and 10K’s. My foot swam inside a size 5. I was left to stare in envy at my mom’s pink Newtons.

I remember my mom coming home from the 2007 Ironman World Championships, where she volunteered in the medical tent as a physician. She had a shiny, new pair of pink running shoes. Little did my mom know that when she bought one of the very first pair of Newtons, she would be supporting research of the cancer that would steal her husband and take my dad. A portion of the proceeds from that shoe benefited prostate cancer, a cancer unfortunately all too well known to the co-founder of Newton Running, Jerry Lee.

Jerry and Winter

In 2008, I attended Ironman Lake Placid — my first Ironman! I was just 9 years old, overlooking the Olympic Oval full of bikes. I crossed the finish line with my idol, my mom (when kids were still allowed to cross the line with parents). I was dressed just like her, pink Newtons and all. I knew then, Ironman Lake Placid would be on my bucket list! It was there that I remember meeting a man who slipped that first pink pair of size 5 Newtons on my feet. Newtons have never left my feet since. I now call Jerry Lee and his company “family” and I race for him as well as my dad and the 1 in 6 men affected by prostate cancer around the world.

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The following year, 2009, would redefine my life. I would now have to live without my dad physically by my side. I made a vow with my brothers, that we would chase prostate cancer to the end of the world and stomp it out like it stomped our dad out! It was the birth of Team Winter. I had completed an Olympic Distance Triathlon just months before my dad’s passing. It was the last race he would hug me at the finish line. It was a race many said I couldn’t finish and that I was too young. Little did the critics know, that was just the beginning for me.

Memorial

Now, at age 14, I have four marathons, on four continents, under my race belt. It hasn’t been easy though. The journey to the start line of these marathons is the real story. Running the marathons has become the easy part! “You’re too young,” “You can’t run our marathon, but you can run our 5K,” “Wait until you get older,” “You must be 18 years old,” “NO!” Over and over, these are the responses that I got when I set out to become the youngest person to run a marathon on all seven continents.

It is all part of my dream that I began planning at 10 years of age, a World Marathon Tour for Prostate Cancer Awareness. I wanted to achieve this world record in memory of my dad and the men and their families affected by prostate cancer. I guess it’s a good thing my mom taught me “Never take ‘No’ for an answer,” never accept, “You can’t,” “You won’t”, “You shouldn’t”. If I had let these thoughts enter my mind, my marathon tour probably would not have got very far. I honestly can’t even tell you how many “No’s” my mom and I got from race directors around the world. I lost count, but never lost faith and hope.

Eugene Marathon, in April 2012, would kick off my World Marathon Tour. The Newton trainer has always been my favorite distance running shoe. This shoe would help me run my first marathon at age 13 in 3:45:04, just 5 minutes shy of a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Next stop was Kenya, the Amazing Maasai. It was my first trail marathon and despite a strong field of Kenyans, I placed 3rd overall female. I took over 20 pairs of my old Newton running shoes that I had worn over the years and donated them to the young Kenyan runners, many of whom ran in sandals made from tires. It was incredible to run against the Kenyans who have become some of the fastest runners in the world.

Winter Running

 

Winter in Africa

My next two marathons would challenge even the seasoned runners. After consulting Newton, we decided to bring out the retired Newton all-weather trainer. This proved extremely beneficial as I headed to the “End of the World”. My 3rd marathon would take place on the rugged, frozen tundra of Antarctica. What could possibly top that marathon? Well, the cancellation of my original South America marathon, Galapagos, had me now facing the “toughest marathon in the world”, Peru’s Inca Trail Marathon.

Winter in Antartica

How does anyone even train for such a race on the Inca Trail at nearly 14,000 feet? My run coach, Mark Hadley, was not even fazed by the change in races. He quickly put together a running plan filled with hill runs and more hill runs. Never once did he doubt or question my ability to tackle such an extreme marathon.

As an Olympic hopeful for the 2018 Winter Olympics in aerial skiing, I fortunately live in Park City, Utah, where I’m consistently training and running at 7,000 plus feet of elevation. I did as my run coach said and faithfully put in all the long runs. Not to forget, recovering with ice baths and foam rolling! I threw in a lot of cross training with swimming, mountain biking, aerial ski training and lots of weight training to maintain a really strong core. I had just come back from setting a world record for the youngest person to run 26.2 miles in Antarctica in March. How tough could the Inca Trail be?

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Check back here next week to find out!

 

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