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Clubs uniforms stolen, then replaced

Adidas steps in to help Forest Grove Running Club, home to 42 youth runners


Thieves took their uniforms, but not their pride. And after the angst, a serendipitous circumstance has buoyed the future for a local youth running club.

Last Tuesday, while Coach Sue Fleskes was inside the Rose Quarter in downtown Portland taking in a Trail Blazers basketball game, someone picked the lock on one of her car doors and stole dozens of uniforms belonging to the Forest Grove Running Club’s 42 members, who are in fourth- through eighth-grades.

Thirty-one sets of jackets, shirts and shorts, all individually packaged and stored in duffel bags, were taken. The uniforms were worth about $3,600. Portland police are looking into the incident, in which Fleskes — head cross-country coach at Forest Grove High School and mentor-coach for the running club, which gives young athletes a place to run until they reach high school — also lost her camera, which stored team photos.

“They aren’t holding out much hope that our things will be recovered,” noted Fleskes.

Because members of the club were ending their fall season, with only a handful of athletes looking forward to extended season meets, Fleskes had collected most of the uniforms and stored them briefly in her car.

“I felt horrible, and totally responsible” about the theft, she said Friday. It was hard to figure out why someone would take the uniforms, Fleskes added, because they’re embroidered with the name Run Portland, a Portland nonprofit that supports running in metro-area communities.

Started with grant

The Forest Grove club started with a $2,500 grant from Run Portland. It doesn’t charge its members to compete in the half-dozen meets scheduled each year, noted Fleskes, instead relying on donations to pay registration fees and subsidize other costs.

Last year, Tyler Shipley, a 2011 FGHS graduate and now a freshman cross-country runner at Pacific University, led the team. This year, Elena Torry-Schrag took on the head coaching job to fulfill the requirements of her high school senior project. She plans workouts for the team, runs practice sessions with help from assistant coaches Julia Khoury and Seth Berdahl and supervises the young runners at meets.

Like Fleskes, when she heard about the uniform theft, Torry-Schrag was heartbroken.

“When I found out it was a horrible feeling — like a personal attack,” she said.

“For me, cross-country has kind of given me a place to belong in high school, so I know that being a part of this team is important to these kids.

“And, having uniforms makes them feel united as a team.”

For two days, Fleskes and Torry-Schrag considered ways to replace the uniforms, worrying that they might have to start charging team members to be part of the club.

Torry-Schrag’s mother, Karen Torry, even opened an account at the Forest Grove branch of Bank of the West as a way to collect donations.

Offers of help

Then, a minor miracle occurred. Fleskes received a call from an official at Adidas, an athletic clothing and equipment manufacturer, offering to replace the uniforms. She leapt at the opportunity.

“We got an email confirming they’ll be sponsoring us,” she said. “As to what that will look like, I can’t tell you, but we’re really grateful.”

Since mid-week last week, other offers of help have also poured in, from as far away as Eugene. “I was able to tell the kids that so many people care about them,” Fleskes said. “It’s really amazing.”

Torry-Schrag echoed her mentor’s excitement.

“When I found out Adidas was going to sponsor us, it was a huge weight off my shoulders,” Torry-Schrag said Friday afternoon. “We don’t have a lot of money, and having uniforms makes the kids feel united as a team.”

Adidas’ gesture, she said. “sort of restored my faith in humanity.”

The new uniforms are due to arrive by spring. For the time being, the team will keep its bank account open, noted Fleskes. Donations can be made to “Forest Grove Running Club.”




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