'Back on My Feet' puts homeless on a new path

Posted by Lucy Luginbill on January 22, 2013 

When the air is crisp and the world has not yet awakened, an early morning jog can stretch the mind — allow it to run with new ideas.

Anne Mahlum still remembers the day a thought began to nudge her heart — one that would change the course of her life.

With her steps echoing in the dawn, Anne would routinely run through an older section of Philadelphia, Pa., her apartment in an "up and coming" neighborhood nearby. But she soon found she wasn't the only one on the streets when she jogged past the homeless shelter.

"They would wave at me," Anne recalls about the friendly faces and shouts of encouragement from those who chose to sleep outside.

Each morning as she passed them by, she began to wonder why she was leaving them behind. And that's when an epiphany happened: Maybe she could take them on the run with her!

However, taking that first step toward her goal wasn't that easy.

"Is this going to be a good idea?" the avid runner remembers thinking when the shelter administration was dubious. "They didn't see my vision," she says about her first contact through email.

But when the petite blonde enthusiastically explained her plan in a face-to-face meeting, the idea was off and running.

Putting her career aside, Anne founded the Back on My Feet non-profit organization (BoMF) with the hope that lives could be changed through running.

"I thought this could be bigger than just a running club," Anne says, referring to how the program can make more than a physical difference, bringing emotional and spiritual change. "I never get tired of watching people defining themselves in a new way."

Through volunteers and donations to this national organization, the homeless and underserved are given team shirts, socks, jackets and Nike running shoes. The outcome for the runners is often renewed strength, independence, self-sufficiency, confidence and self-esteem.

The Back on My Feet website reports amazing results, with, "seventy-five percent of Members consistently maintaining 90 percent attendance at morning runs. Fifty percent of Members successfully move from dependency to an independent lifestyle."

It’s quite an accomplishment for Anne, a native of Bismarck, N.D., who has relatives here in the Tri-Cities. And while hailed as a hero on CNN for her tireless efforts in major cities across the U.S., Anne is a humble example of her Midwest upbringing.

"Early on, I felt this idea was bigger than myself," she says about starting the running club, "and I felt a responsibility."

As a result, Anne has run passionately with her idea — one that has left a positive footprint on the lives of others.

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