Janji: Running in Baltimore, running for another - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Janji: Running in Baltimore, running for another

For runners, it seems, giving is instinctive. It’s just another fluid stride; a carefully phased breath or a foot placed forward.

But why does this type of charity only begin, and end, on race days? Why are organized running events the only times you run for a cause that’s not your own? To remedy this, Mike Burnstein and Dave Spandorfer founded Janji, a new running apparel brand that gives back where I also work.

Janji’s mission is simple: The flags of countries fighting food and water scarcity inspire each piece of apparel’s design, and a portion of each sale aids their respective cause.

On the bus to the 2010 Division III Track and Field Championships, Mike and Dave, recent graduates of Washington University in St. Louis and cross-country teammates there, came up with the idea of alleviating the food and water crisis with the help of the running community.

Events such as the Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival, with all its charitable participants, are testaments to Baltimore’s own vibrant and thriving running community. Since the Festival’s 2001 inaugural run, more than $8 million has been raised for local charities, including about $980,000 in 2011, the most recent reported year.

In fact, according to Running USA, runners raised an estimated $1.2 billion for charity in 2011. “During a race, training run, or just a group of people getting out there, you always see runners, without thinking, offering to help one another,” said Ericka Butler, apparel buyer for Baltimore’s own Charm City Run.

A large, organized event like this is a great opportunity for giving and it shouldn’t stop once the last runner crosses the finish line. Some Baltimoreans, such as Butler, have jumped at the prospect of giving back without a time limit.

Mike and Dave, recent graduates Washington University in St. Louis and cross-country teammates there, came up with the idea of alleviating the food and water crisis with the help of the running community.

Mike and Dave, recent graduates of Washington University in St. Louis and cross-country teammates, came up with the idea of alleviating the food and water crisis with the help  from the running community.

A local specialty running store, Charm City Run has been an early supporter of Janji and its social cause. “The concept of Janji, running for another, is fantastic.  Charm City Run is passionate about making a difference in the community and helping others,” Butler said.

The donations go to partner charities in each country. Janji has had lines for Haiti and Kenya since last summer and the reception has been incredible. Now being sold in over 100 stores across the country, Janji apparel has been attractive because of the unique colors and designs, along with the unique cause that they benefit.

Handheld water pumps are sent to families in Kenya through the organization KickStart. In Haiti, where malnutrition affects 20-25 percent of children, nutritional medicine is being sent through Meds & Food for Kids that can cure malnutrition in  six weeks.

As a result, the startup has been able to expand its new spring lines in order to add Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

Aid through the Bangladesh sales go to Helen Keller International to provide families’ crop seeds; Rwanda’s donations go to MANA, which produces medicine to treat childhood malnutrition, and Tanzania’s donations go to MSABI to provide accessible, safe drinking water. Sustainable solutions to poor food and water access can help raise thousands out of poverty.

Food and water scarcity is an issue that the two track and field stars knew would strike a chord with runners. ““Nutrition and hydration are two concepts that will forever be on runners’ minds. They are critical to how we perform,” Burnstein said. “When food and water scarcity are at issue, it resonates with the running community.”

Burnstein and Spandorfer are on to something, as Janji already has provided more than 16,000 servings of nutritional medicine to children in Haiti and over 2,000 seasons’ worth of water to Kenyan families since starting last May. Their story has been highlighted in the March edition of Runner’s World for its worthwhile cause.

The number of runners at the Under Armour Running Festival grew to 27,000 in 2011, a record for the event. This is proof that the Charm City has the trails, tracks, and runners to make a difference. The runners are there, and race day shouldn’t be the only day for giving. That is was Dave and Mike have emphasized since Janji’s beginnings on the team bus.

“We don’t want to have people just buy clothing. That’s not what this is about. We want runners to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves,” Spandorfer said. “It really makes us appreciate doing something we love in order to help others.”

To learn more, go to www.runjanji.com

Editor’s note: The author of this article works for Janji.

Writer Liz Rosenthal also contributed to this report.




About the author

Samuel Nota

Samuel Nota is a student at Boston University. A Marshfield, Massachusetts native, he’s extremely proud to be deeply ingrained in everything Boston. As a devoted competitor and athlete, Sam has a passion for trying to make himself and everyone else around him better at what they love. In his free time Sam loves to be creative, through music, art and sarcasm. He swears that the art of sarcasm is real, and that it has given him a unique sense of humor. Contact the author.

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