Catie’s Closet virtual 5K helps students in the midst of COVID-19

Catie's Closet provides clothing to low income students in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Courtesy of Catie's Closet

By Suzanne Crow
BU News Service

From Sept. 23 to Oct. 7, Catie’s Closet held a 5K race that raised over $12,000 and provided over 600 sneakers to students in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Like other races this year, the 5K was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bethany Welch, the program administrator for Catie’s Closet, said the race was a “great success” and a way for “people to be able to make a real tangible difference right from their own spaces.” 

Welch said 287 people from around the world registered for the 5K, and each $30 registration fee paid for a new pair of sneakers for a student. Others donated money or sneakers. Welch said Catie’s Closet offered free entry to students, families, and staff of participating schools because they know how students miss gym class and athletics. 

Robin Abodeely, who works as a nurse at Dr. Crisp Elementary School in Nashua, New Hampshire, participated in the 5K with a friend. 

“We’ve had Catie’s Closet in our school for at least six years. And it’s incredible; it’s life-changing for families,” Abodeely said. 

Catie’s Closet, a non-profit that puts “closets” in schools to help low-income students in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, was founded in 2010 in celebration of Catie Bisson, a Lowell High School graduate who died from a tissue disorder at age 20. Abodeely and Welch said Bisson was passionate about school and helping others. The first closet opened in Lowell High School, and Catie’s Closet now has locations in 90 schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, according to Welch. 

Welch said Catie’s Closet works to meet children’s basic needs to improve school attendance and graduation rates. This year, she said, the organization is working to help both kids attending in-person school and kids learning from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are really trying to remind kids that they are loved and supported and worthy of having a great educational experience and a great life,” Welch said. 

Shantel Pereira, who works at James Houlares Center and knows Catie’s Closet from when her siblings were in school, ran the 5K with a friend. 

“I felt like it was a good way to give back to the community that I work for,” she said. “ Plus, what they’ve done for my family in years past.”

Abodeely said she helped a child in her school get sneakers from Catie’s Closet, and “his whole demeanor changed” when he replaced his duck-taped and beat-up sneakers with the new ones. 

“I bet that he’ll remember that for a long time,” Abodeely said. 

Pereira said this was her first 5K, and she was glad she was able to participate.

“It was a great opportunity to give back and do something for myself and others at the same time,” Pereira said. 

Welch said the number of people who participated in the 5K shows “support and giving aren’t canceled this year.” 

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