Oregon Offices Put Best Feet Forward in Challenge

Posted June 19, 2007 at 3:52pm

The notorious Washington, D.C., summer heat may threaten to slow things down, but in the offices of the Oregon House Representatives, a contest has everyone moving.

The third annual Capitol Hill Reuse-A-Shoe Challenge, sponsored by Nike and the National Recycling Coalition, is in full swing as of June 11. The coalition provided the boxes and instructions; now it’s up to Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D), Peter DeFazio (D), Darlene Hooley (D), Greg Walden (R) and David Wu (D) to fill the receptacles with as many worn-out athletic sneakers as possible. The shoes will be recycled into environmentally sustainable sports surfaces to be donated to communities that need them.

Since the drive is only in its second week, press secretaries were unsure as to the current count and progress at the collection stations, located in each Representative’s Hill office. The consensus, though, is that things are off to a good start.

“We’re off to the races and we’ve had a good response so far,” said Penny Dodge with DeFazio’s press office.

“Congresswoman Hooley is known for wearing tennis shoes on the House floor,” Joan Evans, Hooley’s press secretary, chimed in. “Her personal contributions may be the ones that put us over the top.”

Dodge and Evans were alluding to the bit of friendly competition that gets entered into the equation when all five Representatives solicit donations individually. Whoever accumulates the highest number of sneakers by July 11 will get to donate a large sum of money to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice that would give young people the resources to become more physically active.

The first challenge was won by DeFazio, who chose to donate the winnings to the Reedsport and Springfield school districts in Oregon. Walden was next in line for the prize, boasting a record number of nearly 500 donated pairs of sneakers.

While Nike.com reports that in previous years Congressional officers used candy and congratulatory cheers as motivating tactics, spokesmen are keeping their strategies a secret until the competition’s exciting conclusion.

“We’re trying to be aggressive and creative in our outreach efforts,” Evans said. She joked, “We are not going to be duped by the DeFazio team again!”

“We don’t want to let our top-secret plans get out to the competitors,” Walden’s spokesman Andrew Whelan echoed with a laugh. “But seriously, it’s easy getting people involved. We spread the word, involve the schools … in general, Oregonians are pretty good at getting involved with this kind of activity. They like to do good.”