Six-time Olympic medalist and Needham native Aly Raisman is continuing her long-running collaboration with local Boston shoe company York Athletics Mfg. to launch a pair of signature sneaks for a heartfelt cause.
For every pair of “The Gail by Aly Raisman” athletic sneakers purchased in October, York will donate a pair to an individual experiencing homelessness with help from the Boston homeless-serving agency Heading Home.
While Raisman has been no stranger to charitable causes through the years, she says the pandemic has made her feel immensely lucky for her health, the health of her loved ones and to have a place to call home.
“I think it goes without saying how absolutely heartbreaking it is that there are so many people out there—I think far more than people realize—that don’t have a home and don’t have a safe place to go,” Raisman says. “[It] continues to be important to me to educate myself and figure out different ways to give back and to also inspire other people to do the same.”
This isn’t the first time Raisman has worked with Heading Home—back in 2017, she collaborated with Leesa Mattress to donate dozens of custom-made mattresses to the shelter. She says she’s connected with the nonprofit shelter quite a bit recently, and is impressed by the powerful work the organization does in the community.
In addition to emergency shelter, Heading Home provides transitional and permanent affordable housing to those experiencing homelessness, along with supportive services to individuals and families all the way from Quincy to Malden.
Each pair of the “The Gail by Aly Raisman” sneakers feature the words “Worth the fight” on the tongue. The motto, part of York’s long-term collaboration with Raisman, is particularly resonant now while the Boston community contends with the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Raisman says the motto has always inspired her. “I just want people to know that no matter who you are, you matter, and you are worth the fight,” she says.
“Worth the fight” also aligns with the mission of Heading Home. In addition to providing housing, the nonprofit also helps people with career coaching, life-skills development, and goal-setting to ease the transition into self-sufficiency.
“We are committed to making sure every family and person we support knows not only that they are safe and cared for, but that they are worth the fight, today and always,” says Danielle Ferrier, Heading Home’s CEO, in a press release.
Despite lots of competition in the Boston shoe scene, York has carved out a name for themselves in the athleisure and streetwear market with their unisex, logo-free kicks in a variety of solid colors. The company, launched by the third-generation of the local sportswear-making York family back in 2016, won a Best of Boston award in 2019 for Best E-Commerce Retailer.
Raisman’s signature sleek, slip-on, mint-green sneakers are named after York family matriarch Gail York and were originally designed with Tokyo’s cityscape in mind on behalf of the 2020 Olympics, but with the games postponed, the company and Raisman decided to release the shoes anyway.
With events canceled and life on pause these past months, Raisman says she has spent the time working hard on herself so that she can continue to better help those in need.
“I think that right now this world really needs people to step up and to help others who are less fortunate,” she says. “[I’m] learning as much as I can so I can understand how best to help other people and how to make a difference.”
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