If you have been Uptown lately, you may have noticed more men, women and even children sleeping in piles of blankets in front of buildings, at bus stops, on park benches and around the transit center. That’s because our city’s homeless population is growing and more and more of our neighbors are finding themselves living in the direst of circumstances on the street.

We are reaching out to our neighbors in need by joining forces with our friends at Smasheton to present #CLTruns4wards. On Tuesday, February 28 and Wednesday, March 1, our team along with other runners in the Charlotte area have pledged to pay it forward and run the city’s four wards, delivering backpacks filled with basic necessities to improve the quality of life for those experiencing hardest of times. We will meet at 6 p.m. in front of our new, located at 901 North Tryon, Suite E (between Tryon and the Church Street connector).

Our initial goal is show these individuals that they are not invisible. We see them and want to help.

Thanks to the generosity of donors in the community, the backpacks will contain several items including hygiene products, hats, gloves, socks, hand warmers, reusable water bottles, rain ponchos and easy-to-read maps highlighting area soup kitchens, shelters and other services in the Charlotte Metropolitan area. We appreciate community supporters such as  KIND Bars, Dillard’s,  PEARL, Feetures!, Elevation Church and others who have given generously to help make this initiative possible.

While we have collected most of the items needed to complete this project, we are still in need of several new heavy-duty backpacks to make it a success. Donations can be made Sunday in Uptown Charlotte during the OS1st Big Game 4 Miler. The race begins at 9 a.m. in front of Bank of America Stadium. We are accepting donations at the RunningWorks tent.

You can also drop off new heavy-duty backpacks at Ultra Running Store with two Charlotte locations at 1027 Providence Road and 1750 Camden Road. Monetary donations can be made online via PayPal.

Asheton Brown, Smasheton founder and self-described “unicorn ninja,” came up with the #CLTruns4Wards concept.

“Little ideas always turn into big ones for me,” she explains on her website. “While organizing things at my parents house I started putting bags of items together to give to those I passed on the Greenways during my runs. However that small idea didn’t stay small very long. Not long after I realized I could get the whole city involved in something to bring bags to more than just a few.”

Brown reached out to RunningWorks Founder & Executive Director Meredith Dolhare, and the two have spent the past few months enlisting the help of others, including several local businesses and running clubs in the area, to organize the five-day event and help more families in need.

“Our team members in RunningWorks are very excited to help with this project,” said Dolhare. “They have been taking inventory of where the most emergent cases of homelessness occur in our city so we can do what we can to help our neighbors in need. Volunteering and paying it forward are key values to our program. We feel honored to put those values in action with #CLTruns4Wards.”

Please join us. Email meredith@runningworks.org or info@smasheton.com to learn more about how to get involved. Together, we can make a difference.

For more information on Smasheton or #CLTruns4wards, please visit at www.smasheton.com or connect with us on social media. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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