Q&A: Sneakers for Soldiers’ Founders Deborah and John Hausladen

Photos by Tessa Marie Images

The Chester Springs couple works to get athletic footwear to servicemen and women.

When they discovered that soldiers weren’t receiving athletic shoes while deployed, Chester Springs’ Deborah and John Hausladen decided to help, spearheading the nonprofit Sneakers for Soldiers. Through a partnership with Bryn Mawr Running Company, the couple is able to provide sneakers chosen by the soldiers to fit their needs. So far, the organization has donated more than 2,000 pairs, each with a personalized note.

MLT: Why Sneakers for Soldiers?

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DH: We received a phone call from our son, who was deployed as an infantry officer in Afghanistan. He asked us if we’d mind sending him a new pair of sneakers. The harsh environment and high temperatures had really broken down his only pair. Three words popped into my mind: “sneakers for soldiers.”

JH: We initially thought that the [only] reason for providing these shoes was because their shoes break down. The real advantage is how these soldiers feel when they receive them. What they appreciate most is knowing that people are still thinking of them.

MLT: And the notes?

DH: We’re connecting the American people with a soldier. Every shoe has a tag on it with the name, city, and state of a donor. People include notes saying, “In honor of,” “In memory of,” or they include a phrase like, “We’re thinking of you with each mile you run.” It’s a great way to boost morale.

MLT: What’s Bryn Mawr Running Company’s role?

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JH: They help us with a fairly complicated process—doing the online ordering with different manufacturers, keeping track of new styles, and publishing information for the soldiers so they can pick the best shoes for their needs.

DH: We approached the owner, Bob Schwelm. Five minutes into talking to him, he says, “I’m in.” They always give back to the community in different ways. It’s been a beautiful relationship.

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