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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Abate To Receive Early Christmas Present From New Balance

If you already think New Balance is a great company because of the running shoes they make, here's another reason to love the Massachusetts-based firm. This week, New Balance said it was going to give Frank Abate of Westerly all the free shoes and running gear he needs as he works toward his goal of running in the 2009 Boston Marathon.

As you might recall from two October stories in The Day, the 32-year-old Abate has cerebral palsy but runs road races as well as teaches and coaches in the Westerly school system. He wears gloves when he runs because he often falls and he dedicates his races to two of the most influential people in his life, his late father and grandfather.

Because of the way Abate runs — alternately swinging his legs forward and landing with his feet splayed out — he wears out his pairs of New Balance shoes a lot faster than the rest of us. Affording them is not always easy.

Amy Vreeland, New Balance's corporate communications manager, said Friday that after reading the stories, she was not inspired by Abate's determination but by how he inspires others and how the community supports him.

In an e-mail to me last week, Vreeland said New Balance was “honored” to help Abate. When I told her I wanted to give New Balance some credit for helping him out, she downplayed her company's role.

“This is an easy thing for us to do. The tough part is what he does,” she said. “He's the hero of the story here and all the people who support him. We're just a small part of it.'
New Balance sponsors a team of elite runners in the Chicago Marathon. More importantly, it has been an 18-year partner with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure program to eradicate breast cancer. It's the national sponsor for the Komen road race series and donates up to $1 million to the organization from sales of Lace Up For the Cure apparel and shoes.
It also supports a program called Girls on the Run that encourages pre-teen girls to develop healthy lifestyles through running. This includes paying for operation and management costs, sponsoring the national Girls on the Run 5K race series, and providing running shoes to 500 needy girls every year.

“Here and there we help out where we can, Vreeland said. “Obviously (Abate's) story touched us.”

She said New Balance understands what it takes to be a runner even without having to overcome the obstacles Abate does.

“And he shouldn't have to worry about his shoes,” she said.
Vreeland said people like Abate inspire others to try something that they don't think they can do.

“We're looking forward to reading about him setting new PRs,” she said.
Speaking of PRs, Abate recorded his 5K best a few weeks ago at the Westerly Elks race by running 54:24.

He'll probably set another PR running out to the street to meet the UPS guy when he shows up with that first big box of New Balance stuff.
Merry Christmas, Frank.

Full Story Here
Story by Joe Wajtas - Published 12/2/2007

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