Meet Brittney Olinger
At 17, Brittney Olinger is bringing smiles to children and shoes to their feet through ReRun Sneakers, the non-profit she started to provide shoes and supplies for aspiring runners in underprivileged areas. The 5’8’’ Oak Hall School senior is a five-time recipient of The Gainesville Sun Female Cross-Country Runner of the Year award and the 2013 New Balance Local Hero award. Boasting a 4.8 GPA, the talented, and equally beautiful, philanthropist has her sights set on an Ivy League level education.
Tell us about your non-profit, ReRun Sneakers. Well, I’ve always loved running. I’ve been running for a really long time, and I wanted to find a way to get shoes to young athletes who couldn’t afford any. When I saw a picture of young runners at a school in the Bahamas who didn’t have any shoes, I wanted to find a way to get shoes to them. I couldn’t find an organization specific enough to that purpose, so I incorporated my own non-profit in the summer of 2012. To date, we’ve shipped out 700 different pairs of running shoes to various locations.
Where was your latest shoe delivery? Jamaica, just last week, and I was able to bring a couple hundred pairs of shoes to the boys homes and some different elementary schools. There’s so much poverty in that area. We travel into the mountains, and people are living in shacks without running water or electricity. When we go there each year, we also renovate the elementary schools and help fix the structures because the weather beats down the buildings. This year we also built a playground, which made the local community very happy that the kids had a safe place to play.
Did they put on their new shoes and race you? Yes! They were so excited and so sweet. There were some really fast boys. There was a 14-year-old who absolutely smoked me in the race. He destroyed me…blew me out of the water! But it was a lot of fun.
Who goes with you? I go with a group based out of Ohio called “Mission Jamaica.” I’ve been going since my freshman year, and this year my whole family came. We help out at a mentally and physically disabled orphanage called “West Haven.” We’ve built great relationships with the kids over the years. They remember us too. They all run up to the gate as soon as they see our bus pull up, and it’s so sad when we have to say good bye.
You said you’ve given 700 pairs of shoes. Where did you find all of those? Well, Gainesville Running and Walking has donated several hundred pairs of shoes to us – shoes that are typically in great condition. They have been great contributors and I’m so grateful to them for all the support they’ve given ReRun and me, as a runner, over the past six years. We also get contributions from Hurlburts’ Stride Rite and schools all over the state. St. Thomas Aquinas in South Florida was one of our biggest contributers, and I have officers based out of several states that send shoes as well.
How have you established those relationships? The running community is just very welcoming and supportive. They really embraced us even though we are tiny. Social media and different running sites like flrunners.com also helped spread the word, and people were very willing to help out.
Are there any organizations or schools in The States that you’ve contributed to, or has it been more third world locations? At this point we have focused mostly on overseas locations. In the spring we are planning to look domestically within the Southeast area and are researching groups that would benefit the most from ReRun.
There is often a stark contrast between what is deemed a necessity here in the states versus abroad. Have you noticed that during your visits? Founding this not-for profit organization helped me realize the significance of something as simple as a pair of shoes. Walking down a gravel street barefoot versus having shoes to protect your feet can make a world of difference. The boys were so incredibly excited when they saw all the shoes lined up. They told me they only had one pair of shoes they kept clean for church and school, but now they would also be able to exercise in a pair.
What have you found to be the most rewarding part of this journey and the experiences you’ve had? Definitely just being with the kids when they get the shoes. They are so excited! We had all different colors, types, and sizes for them to choose from, so they were so happy to get something individualized and special. Also, getting to race the boys was so much fun. They were so energetic, and many of them were incredibly talented. It’s amazing to see how such a small gift can bring so much happiness to a child.
What does the future look like for ReRun? Even though I’m graduating in the spring, I’m in the works right now of making sure it stays centralized in Gainesville. I think it’s really strong here. Most of our connections are in Florida and the Gainesville area. I’m going to make sure it stays strong, and I will continue to personally deliver shipments to Jamaica each December.
Speaking of graduating, what are your plans for college? Academics is my top priority when I look at universities. As of right now, I’ve narrowed my list down and applied to seven colleges. Some of these I would run for, but others I wouldn’t either because of the program or because they are overseas. I’ve received commitment offers from Wake Forest University and Columbia University, but I’m holding off on any decisions until I have all my options in the spring.
Do you have your sights set on a specific career? I definitely want to go into more of the business realm. I’m thinking business finance or economics and management. That’s the field that your dad and grandfather are in – have you been able to get a taste of business by being around it? Growing up, they really instilled in me the notion that business can be a catalyst for good in people’s lives. I remember my dad taking me into his office when I was little and trying to explain how the stock market and portfolios work. When I was eight years old, I first bought into the stock market with a couple shares of Disney. Very appropriate for my age.
Seeing as you’ve already accomplished so much, do you have a role model or someone you aspire to be like? This is very cliché, but I’m going to talk about my parents because I look up to them so much. My dad is one of those people who may not say a lot, but when he does, it has a really big impact. People respect him so much for his commitment, loyalty, and integrity. My mom, she does so much, talk about me doing so much, I have no idea how she accomplishes everything she does, while taking care of three kids. She never lets anything slip through her fingers. I aspire to be like them when I’m older.
Tell us about your siblings. I have two little sisters –Katie Grace and Reece. Katie Grace is 15 years old, way taller than me, funny, smart, beautiful, and one of the best softball players in the area. Reece is ten years old. She’s so precious and loves to read, paint, run, and play with her friends. I’m going to miss them so much next year.
You clearly stay busy studying, running and working with your non-profit, but what do you enjoy doing for fun? Any weekend that I have free, I try and take Reece and Katie Grace to Sisters to have lunch. We absolutely love that place! Of course, most of my free time I spend running or studying at Patticakes. However, when I have a little extra time, I spend it with my friends, normally watching movies or the Bachelor by our fire-pit, or going to Midnight Cookies. My classes and running schedule don’t allow for much free time unfortunately!
Learn more about ReRun Sneakers and see how you can help at rerunsneakers.org.