Former Valley Champion gives back to runners
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Project Run Madera creator and two-time cross country Central Section Champion, Alisha Brown, shows off an enlarged donation from the Madera F.A.N. Club. With Brown are Madera F.A.N. Vice President Tyler Takeda, left, and President Ryan Desmond.
When Alisha Brown was going through middle school, she had the awkward moment of changing in the locker room with other athletes. Unlike other athletes, she didn’t have a sports bra and that made her uncomfortable.
The uncomfortable feeling stayed with Brown though her years at Madera and Madera South high schools where she won two Central Section Championship and through her years running at UC Riverside to even present day where she is still running.
“I wanted sports bras and it wasn’t that my mother could afford them,” Brown said. “It wasn’t a priority. She didn’t know that it was very important for me in middle school to have a sports bra.”
A couple of years ago, through her running sponsors, Brown purchased sports bras for runners at Madera South, Martin Luther King and Desmond Middle School runners.
Since then, Brown has been working on establishing a non-profit to help runners who were like her in high school. She has established Project Run Madera, a 501(c)(3) company that helps out school-aged runners.
“Our purpose is to provide and service, with resources, the youth, runners, specifically, to make sure they have the resources they need, such as sports bras for the girls teams, running shorts, running tops,” Brown said. “Eventually, with the funding, running shoes, which is a big one for me. That requires a lot of funding. It’s about providing the athletes the resources that are expensive. If you’re in the low socio-economic range, these families don’t understand that these girls needs sports bras.”
Seeing a need for funding, the Madera F.A.N. (For high school Athletic Needs) stepped in with a donation. With a sponsorship from Stellar Distributing, Madera F.A.N. president Ryan Desmond presented Brown with her first donation, a check for $2,000.
“It makes me scream inside,” Brown said. “I’m very honored. This first piece of funding is going directly into our first event to provide every running team in Madera, every girl a sports bra. With other donations we will be receiving, we will, hopefully, be providing running shorts for the boys team. We will see what the funds come, what else we can give.”
Brown knows the uncomfortable feeling of running without a sports bra and knows the uncomfortable feeling of asking her parents to get one. She wants to take that part away so that’s one less issue an athlete has to worry about.
“You’re like telling your mom you need a sports bra because it’s uncomfortable to run without one,” Brown said. “For me, it wasn’t that uncomfortable. I wasn’t busty. It was uncomfortable for me to change in the locker room for them to know I wasn’t wearing a sports bra. That was uncomfortable and made me uncomfortable in my own skin. How am I supposed to perform at a high athletic level when I can’t be comfortable in myself?”
Since creating her non-profit and establishing social media platforms, Brown has received donations from other people, including Stephanie Frausto, a high school cross country teammate, Dominique Stewart, a former UC Riverside teammate and Samantha Conway, a former Madera runner.
For Brown, it’s a matter of giving back to the community that has helped her so much. She is currently a special assignment teacher with Madera Unified teaching history at Madera High School.
“It’s amazing to give back,” Brown said. “There’s no greater feeling than being able to give to students and athletes who may or may not have been in my own position, but who are deserving, who are needing these resources and who I can make an impact to motivate them to continue on with their running. It’s going to give them a culture that I experienced and loved.”
Brown also sees the culture that was created when she ran, becoming one of the first Div. I college recruits from Madera South.
“Coach Rich Parris and Coach Earnest Velarde did a very great job building the culture in Madera,” Brown said. “This goes back to Coach Dee DeWitt to build a culture of a championship mentality. Whether that means a medal for you or whether that means you gave your very best and you’re dead at the line.
“There are successes coming from that. It teaches you how to put forth a great effort, how to commit yourself to success. When life throws you curveballs, you know your purpose. It’s not about the sports bra or running shorts. We’re here for a purpose.”
Now, Brown is turning her efforts to help the runners of Madera compete against the best athletes in the state.
“It takes a pressure off the parents and coaches,” she said. “This is something that will relieve some stress so they can focus on running and not on the finances to run.”
Brown has a variety of ways to contribute to Project Run Madera.
“They can contribute through our Venmo @projectrunmadera or contribute through Zelle (559-474-3772),” she said. “We’re still working on getting an organizational email. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”