Kebede runs track and cross country at San Clemente High School. She also has family roots in Ethiopia. She wants to help.
She has launched Shoes for Sheba, a campaign to collect gently used running shoes in Orange County. In December, she plans to take the shoes to Ethiopia to donate to young female athletes.
We asked her about it:
Q. What led you to do this?
A. After my visit to Ethiopia as a fourth-grader in 2004, I was profoundly moved by the poverty I saw in the countryside and decided to try to figure out a way that I could help those children, especially the young girls.
Q. Why shoes?
A. The Ethiopia distance-running legacy is one of prestige, and for many young girls it can be their ticket out of poverty. However, these girls lack the basic tools to reach their potential – shoes.
Q. So you combined your love of the sport and a desire to help?
A. As a high school athlete in Orange County, I saw how quick my teammates are to retire expensive running shoes in order to get the newest, latest and greatest shoe on the market – even when their old shoes still had many miles left in them.
Q. How did this come together?
A. I recalled the barefoot children I saw in the countryside of Ethiopia and came up with the idea to collect those gently used running shoes and give them to young female athletes in Ethiopia – giving birth to my foundation, Shoes for Sheba, named after the ancient Ethiopian queen.
Q. How is it coming?
A. I have collected many bags of shoes from my teammates, established collection bins at local athletic stores such as Run More, and with trainers.
Q. What is next?
A. I am also planning on setting up collection bins at local cross country and track meets.
Q. How will you get the shoes to needy Ethiopian athletes?
A. I am in the process of locating girls’ running clubs in rural Ethiopia to receive the donations and am seeking sponsors to help with the shipping costs.
ABOUT SARA KEBEDE
Home: San Clemente
Roots: Her father, Mizanu Kebede, arrived in America from Ethiopia at age 19.
Running roots: Her mother, Gayle, was a runner in high school and college.
Sister: Elsa, 19, is studying to be a veterinarian.
Athletics: Sara took second in league in the 800 meters, running on an injured foot.
Academics: Has a 4.4 GPA, taking Advanced Placement classes.
Words to live by: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
More words: “Ask yourself if you can give more, and the answer is usually yes.”
Looks up to: Haile Gebrselassie, recently retired world-record holder from Ethiopia.
Why: “He was from the countryside and became this amazing runner. He gives back a lot to the community.”