STORIES BY LEAH CIRELLI

Final Project: Podcast

Published: December 13, 2020

Audio

The Community Sport for Anyone

Published: Nov. 9, 2020

Video

The thought of running several miles as a daily task can seem daunting and almost cruel. But for some, those miles are addictive. 

For Doug Alred, the owner and founder of 1st Place Sports, running took over his life for the better in 1978. Alred was working a desk job as an accountant when two of his co-workers asked him to join them for the Gate River Run.

Wall of shoes inside 1st Place Sports. Photo by Leah Cirelli.

“I said OK, and I started running, and I liked it and was pretty good at it,” said Alred. “So I decided to open up 1st Place Sports between [my] first and second River Runs. Then, kinda the rest is history.”

Alred and his wife now have four store locations, all providing the best equipment and advice for new and seasoned runners. Alred doesn’t participate in runs himself anymore, but he directs races all over Jacksonville.

1st Place Sports Running Store on Baymeadows Road. Photo by Leah Cirelli.

Alfred believes that running and racing are important parts of the community, as both entail charity work and personal growth for the individuals competing. 

Runners sign-up for races for many reasons, including breaking a personal record or just to say they completed the race. No matter the reason, runners get a sense of accomplishment when they cross the finish line and finish the miles on their own time. 

That’s what running is all about — completing a goal.

“I think running is great,” said Alred. “Only because it’s basically setting goals and trying to achieve them, and that’s what life’s all about. When you go out in the workforce and things like that – you go to college, you try to set a goal, and you try to accomplish it. So it prepares you to be able to do that.” 

For many, including Alred, it just takes one person to get them into the running lifestyle. 

PRS Running Club, led by Coach Paul McRae, is a Jacksonville-based running group that focuses on runners of all abilities running together as a community. One of its members,

Theresa Macphee attributes her miles clocked to one co-worker that asked her to join in a run. 

“To this day I give her the credit for starting that fire. I’ve been running for 25 years ever since,” Macphee said. 

Many members of the PRS Running Club are strongly motivated to keep running. Macphee runs to stay healthy and to be an example for her daughters. Another member is a homicide detective that uses running as a way to clear his mind from the stressors of his job. While another runner, Marc Burget, runs to train for marathons. 

PRS Runners at their 5 a.m. run time. Photo by Leah Cirelli.

No matter the reason, their motivations are pretty strong. Each of those runners was able to get in eight to 10 miles at 5 a.m. – before the sun had even risen. 

Although every runner does not need to do that many miles or run that early, running is something that each runner tries to encourage others to take part in. 

“I would love to encourage everyone to just get outside, to move, to stay active,” said Macphee. “No pace is too fast or too slow. Anyone can do it. Anyone can run.”

Running is an individual sport, but many still feel the sense of community that comes with it. Each person runs at their own pace but encourages one another to cross the finish line. 

Whatever the reason, anyone can indeed take part in running. All you need is a pair of sneakers. 

Fostering Animals: When a Brief Friend Turns into a Life-Long Companion

Published: Oct. 5, 2020

Video

At the Jacksonville Humane Society, foster programs have always been a need. When someone fosters a pet, they are a temporary babysitter to an animal in need. Typically, foster pets are either too young to be in shelters or require extra attention for medical needs. Fostering an animal is great for those who want to care for an animal but not make any commitments. It can provide the foster parent with a little extra love from a pet, while helping out the Humane Society. 

Sometimes through the fostering process, the parent can fall in love with that pet, an understandable occurrence. Caring for a fuzzy creature every day can create a bond like no other. That’s why fostering often will turn into an adoption.

As a recent college graduate, Jess Lewis was unsure of her next steps in life. She always wanted a dog, but her parents warned her not to get one until she was settled down. The next best option for Jess was to become a foster mom. Not only did she want to follow her parent’s advice, but she wanted to be sure she was ready for the responsibility of a pet. 

Jess Lewis and her foster dog, Bean. Photo by Leah Cirelli.

She went to the Jacksonville Humane Society for an event called, Dog’s Day Out. The program allows potential adopters to spend a day with a dog. The program is a great way to “test the waters” with one of the shelter dogs or give a pup a day away from their kennel. 

Jess was interested in the Dog’s Day Out program, but also asked about their fostering program. The Humane Society told Jess about a dog they had named Dandelion.

Dandelion was an extremely shy dog. She wouldn’t let anyone near her. She was heartworm positive with seasonal allergies. Despite all this, Jess took her home that day to foster.

For two months, Jess took care of Dandelion. She was diligent in keeping up with all of her medications. She learned to care for Dandelion, being patient with all the fears she had. A simple walk outside would be too much for Dandelion, but Jess persisted for the sake of helping an animal in need.

A call came from the Humane Society, asking Jess to set up a meeting with a potential family for Dandelion. That’s when she knew she couldn’t get rid of her. 

“I started crying and I was like, I can’t get rid of her. She’s my, she’s my dog. She was like sent to me,” said Jess.

The thought of getting rid of Dandelion was enough to make Jess realize just how much she needed her to stay. 

“I was in a transitional phase, where I wasn’t really responsible for anything,” said Jess. “She just kind of came into my life and she had all this heartworm medicine. I didn’t think that I would be able to be consistent with it. She kind of transitioned me from not really having much direction to really being responsible and having a routine and being focused. I had never really had that responsibility before.”

Jess and Bean on their adoption day party. Courtesy Jess Lewis

Jess decided to adopt Dandelion. She changed Dandelion’s name to Bean, and they’ve changed each other’s lives. 

Jess and Bean are the perfect example of when fostering goes wrong, in the best way possible.