Jake is a Board Member for New Shoe Day in Indianapolis. Originally from Wisconsin, Jake’s an Indy transplant who now lives in Broad Ripple, which he calls the “best neighborhood in town.” He graduated from Valparaiso University and the Orr Fellowship program, and now, he works in the Indy tech industry. When he’s not working, Jake spends his free time running on the many trails and sidewalks of Indianapolis.
New Shoe Day creates community through movement.
When the sun’s out, the streets of Indianapolis are packed with people moving their bodies. Every week, hundreds of Hoosiers walk, run, and ride their bikes along the Monon and the Cultural Trail. And our amazing parks are always filled with folks doing yoga, watching birds, or simply relaxing in nature.
After all, Indy’s a sports town, and movement is in our DNA! Most Hoosiers engage in movement to stay in shape or just have fun. But what if your everyday exercise could also help others? What if we harnessed the energy from all those moving people to make a difference?
New Shoe Day is a nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis that does exactly that! Our mission is to promote positive mental health, create connection and community, and empower people through movement.
We believe in the power of new shoes to make a meaningful impact and improve the mental health crisis in America. So, we provide an in-depth mental health curriculum, while donating new shoes to help people get up and move!
New Shoe Day encourages physical activities to boost mental health.
New Shoe Day began in the summer of 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Indy runners—Casey Crouse and Trevor DeWitt—saw the impact of isolation on our community, and that inspired them to reconnect our city by running 1,000 miles in 100 days.
“At a time when things felt very disconnected, I felt called to use my love for running and my love of connecting people to help start New Shoe Day,” said Casey. “We had different conversations about the racial injustices that we were seeing… as well as the mental health crisis that was worsening day by day due to the pandemic. We decided we had to do something about it.”
Casey and Trevor took to the streets of Indianapolis with this mission in mind. Together, they met new neighbors, listened to their stories, and shared that connection with the world. By the end of the summer, they’d built relationships with dozens of Indy residents and raised over $8,000 for the Monumental Kids Movement presented by Apex Benefits.
After seeing the tremendous impact over those 100 days, Casey and Trevor quickly took the necessary steps to transform their project into a nonprofit. Now, New Shoe Day partners with local businesses, athletic groups, and other nonprofits to make an impact in our community.
We connect Hoosiers with a positive mental health curriculum and donate new shoes as random acts of kindness across Indianapolis. These new shoes empower recipients to get active and join the movement, while our curriculum offers tools and strategies to improve their daily lives. This all comes together at our New Shoe Day events, which are often life-changing experiences for our community.
What’s so special about new shoes?
When people first learn about New Shoe Day, they often ask: why shoes? Many nonprofits do important work on a large scale, but we believe that small acts of kindness matter, too. New shoes represent a new beginning, lifting our spirits and giving us a positive mental boost!
New Shoe Day is all about that good feeling. A new pair of shoes empowers you to go outside, stay active, and feel more confident. As a result, those shoes can help someone on the path to feeling more physically and mentally fit. In other words, with new shoes, you have the start of what you need to take care of your whole well-being.
Casey often explains this concept to donors and members of New Shoe Day in this way. “If you walked into a room and saw someone without shoes, it would be natural to wonder why. However, if someone doesn’t have the building blocks of positive mental health, you’d have no way of knowing. We want to make those building blocks accessible, so they are as natural to carry with you as wearing a pair of shoes.”
Because mental health is often stigmatized, we don’t check on our neighbors like we would if they weren’t wearing shoes. That’s why New Shoe Day exists to combat that stigma and promote positive mental health.
Right now, the United States is facing a challenging mental health crisis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people ages 10-34.
These sobering statistics are unacceptable, showing why organizations like New Shoe Day need to combat this crisis head-on.
“New shoes symbolize a fresh start and positivity. We all can remember a time when a new pair of shoes helped us feel good about ourselves. Whether it’s your first pair of basketball shoes, work shoes for a new job, or something that goes great with your favorite outfit, new shoes naturally make you feel good!”
New Shoe Day is helping people live healthier.
The mental health crisis is so widespread that it’ll take multiple strategies to make an impact. That’s why our work falls into three separate categories—with each one relating to a different aspect of our mission.
Priority 1: Promote Positive Mental Health
It’s no secret that it’s tough to talk about mental health in the United States. Research shows that many Americans go years without support because of the social stigma around mental health.
At New Shoe Day, we’re raising awareness about mental health and giving people the support they need. We see a tremendous opportunity to work “upstream” by helping people before they face a mental health crisis.
To accomplish this, New Shoe Day enlisted the help of some mental health experts. One of our board members, Jess Yoder works for the Indiana Department of Education to help improve mental wellness in K-12 students, families, and educators. We also recruited Christy Berger, a mental health curriculum consultant with years of experience working with people of all ages and backgrounds.
With their help, New Shoe Day has created an in-depth mental health curriculum we can share with community partners as well as our members.
Priority 2: Create Community and Connection
New Shoe Day believes that in order to live both a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle, you need to be engaged with your neighbors.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Community can be defined in many ways, but when simplified down to its most important element, community is all about connection. Community is not just an entity or a group of people, it’s a feeling. It’s feeling connected to others, feeling accepted for who you are, and feeling supported.”
We all know the power of a meaningful friendship. Having a strong connection to other people in our lives ensures that we have support during the challenging times and folks to celebrate with during the good times.
Communities also hold their members accountable to group goals, like working towards a consistent running goal or taking time to focus on your mental health. When we’re in a community, we play a role in that community’s purpose, and having a purpose gives a special meaning to life.
Knowing this, New Shoe Day partners with organizations that are purposefully building communities across Indianapolis. One example is a fantastic nonprofit called AthLead Indy, an organization that promotes community change through youth track and field. To date, AthLead has built a community of over 100 young leaders and their families.
This past season, New Shoe Day supported AthLead by providing a mental health curriculum for their coaches to use in practice, highlighting the importance of positive mental health habits at a young age. Of course, New Shoe Day also donated over 100 pairs of shoes to symbolize the power of mental health mindfulness!
In the future, New Shoe Day will continue to work with organizations like AthLead that are making a difference in Indianapolis.
Priority 3: Empower People through Movement
People who are new to New Shoe Day often think that the organization is a running club—and only that. But New Shoe Day is about so much more than just running!
“Our weekly runs are a huge component of our mission,” said Casey. “Over the past two years, these events—held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings—have provided an opportunity for people of all backgrounds and ability levels to move together in an effort to be mindful of their own mental health.”
Exercise improves not only physical health but mental health as well. It improves your self-esteem and cognitive function, while reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. Exercising with other people also promotes connection and belonging! There’s a collective joy our species is hardwired to feel when we move in synchrony with others.
Today, more than 150 people have been involved in the New Shoe Day “Movement,” either here in Indianapolis or one of the 14 states where New Shoe Day has members. We all believe in the power of movement to make a change in the world, and so far, we’ve been able to raise nearly $30,000 for the nonprofit.
In the words of Co-Founder Trevor Dewitt, “When you move with purpose, you support New Shoe Day’s mission. It doesn’t matter when or how. Movement is the energy that powers New Shoe Day.”
As our community has grown, so has awareness of our cause. Today, New Shoe Day uses Slack to organize events across the country, and nearly every weekend, members compete in races or attend events in support of the mission. As of June 2022, New Shoe Day has been represented at over a hundred different races, ranging from local 5Ks to IRONMANs and ultramarathons across the country.
How can I get involved with New Shoe Day?
At New Shoe Day, we believe that there’s a place for everyone within the community. As a result, there are tons of different ways you can join the movement and support New Shoe Day’s mission!
For Indy residents, the best way to get involved is to show up for one of our group runs! We meet in Broad Ripple on Wednesdays and Eagle Creek on Saturdays. These weekly runs are the perfect opportunity to meet the rest of New Shoe Day and learn more about what you can do to make an impact.
You can also stay up-to-date with New Shoe Day by following our Instagram or subscribing to our Google calendar. We publish a monthly newsletter and maintain a consistent feed of athlete stories on our website!
If you’re not interested in running, you can still support New Shoe Day by making a financial contribution. A $100 donation means we can provide positive mental health resources and a new pair of shoes for someone in the community we serve. Learn more at NewShoeDay.org/Get-Involved!