College students know that studying can be stressful and full of challenges. Not a lot of students find time to get involved in clubs or organizations. However, few students, like Joseph Fuller, a Saint Leo junior, is able to run his own charity while managing to balance the stressful studying and being on an athletic team.
Fuller is a Management major from Sidney, Ohio, where he attended Lehman Catholic High School. In high school, he was part of the cross country team. However, he was not like the student he currently is in Saint Leo. In fact, in high school, due to his efforts to become a successful athlete, his grades became worse and he needed to change something.
“I have discovered that time management and balancing things in your life is the key to success. In high school I never had good grades — my grade point average suffered because I didn’t balance my time. It wasn’t until I started my search of a college that I realized, if I wanted to be successful in life, I would need to invest myself into my academics,” said Joseph Fuller, who is called Joe by his teammates.
While he was looking for a university where he can grow as an athlete, receive a good academic education, and continue his activities in the church, he found Saint Leo University. In 2014, he became a Saint Leo student, starting the new chapter of his life almost thousand miles away from home.
“I know it can be a difficult decision for some students to choose which college they want to attend, but for me the choice wasn’t that difficult. I knew exactly what I wanted in a university. I wanted to compete at the NCAA level. I wanted a school that wasn’t in a big city—it had to have a strong sense of community, family and call to service. Lastly, due to my faith it needed to be a Catholic University.”
From the beginning on, Joseph was very active in the cross country and track team, the Knights of Columbus, and helping with the Special Olympics. With the Saint Leo Cross Country team he won three Conference Championships, one Regional Championship and qualified for the National Championship twice.
All these activities didn’t hold Joseph back from going the extra mile. He always kept looking for opportunities to give back to the community. Then, in 2016, shortly after his twenty-first birthday, he found a real need that he wanted to solve.
“There is an overwhelming problem that numerous student-athletes around the United States are currently facing. They lack proper running shoes. There are so many runners that just do not have the money to purchase additional pairs of shoes. On the other hand, there are runners out there who are able to purchase a new pair of shoes every season, or when a new model becomes available, but many of these individuals don’t know what to do with their old pairs of shoes and end up tossing them out, or putting them into storage,” said Fuller.
With this motivation, he started the I Play Track Foundation. Over his running career throughout high school and college, he met many runners that could not afford proper running shoes or had to use duct or athletic tape to hold them together.
“The name will make sense to any athlete who chose running as their main sport. When someone finds out you are an athlete, the question they most often ask is, ‘What sport do you play?’ It can often be an annoyance trying to explain you run cross country, or the events you run in track, so I took an annoyance, made it a positive, and now I proudly tell people, I play track,” said Fuller.
He started raising awareness of his organization through social media and running events. With a catchy name and a lot of hard work Fuller was able to collect many shoes and already distributed many of them to athletes in over five states. However, he already faced his first challenge in the history of his young organization.
“I simply do not have enough sizes to meet the requests I have for shoes. I think people would be shocked by the demand for these types of shoes. I would like to see the future of running get better, and I truly believe this organization will be able to make that happen. I have seen how far a small spark of motivation can carry someone,” Fuller said.
Currently, the I Play Track Foundation is only accepting donations in form of running shoes and spikes, and is not yet prepared to take monetary donations. Joseph found a way to combine his passion for running with his desire to give back to the community. He has high ambitions on where his charity is going. The outspoken goal of it is to provide proper fitting running shoes to every student that cannot afford them.
Follow Joseph Fuller’s organization on their Facebook page and consider donating.