When the holidays arrive each year, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in buying gifts for family members and friends that you fail to realize the true meaning of the season, which is reaching out and helping others in need. As you enter this season of giving, think about the numerous ways you can make someone else’s life merrier. Athletes and others who enjoy playing sports and staying fit have several opportunities for seasonal giving.

Here are a few basic ideas for donating your old athletic shoes and equipment, along with how you can share your athletic skills to benefit less fortunate people.

Repurposing Your Old Sneakers

Do you have one or more pairs of old sneakers? There are several organizations that collect and distribute gently worn shoes for worthy causes and recycling purposes. For example:

  • Nike Reuse-a-Shoe grinds old sneakers into a particular type of material, known as Nike Grind, that’s used for surfacing playgrounds, running tracks and athletic courts. Amazingly, during the last 27 years, about 28 million pairs of shoes have been repurposed through this program.
  • Shoe4africa.org is a non-profit organization that collects gently worn shoes and distributes them to disadvantaged Africans.
  • S4S (Soles for Souls) also assembles and delivers both new and slightly used athletic shoes. Since 2004, this organization has distributed over 19 million pairs of sports shoes, responding to relief efforts in 125 countries, such as Africa, Central and South American and Haiti.

Donating Used Sports Equipment

You probably have a few sporting items collecting dust that you no longer use (remember that tennis phase?). These sporting goods could be anything from baseballs, bats, soccer balls, basketballs and skis to snowboards.

Consider how your sports equipment can help those in need. There are many organizations out there that will pick up your unused items and put them to good use again, either in local communities, under served schools or reselling them, with proceeds being donated to charity. And most unused equipment donations can be tax deductible.

Participate in Holiday Races for Charity

If you’re a runner or enjoy walking, you can burn calories, while helping charities by taking part in holiday 5K walks and other races. In addition to raising funds for charitable causes, you’ll also be doing good for yourself with the physical activity.

Check your local newspapers or Facebook groups for upcoming holiday charity races in your area. Proceeds from the race entry fees and donations are usually donated to local charities and those in need. Check out a list of races you can get involved with here.

Rethink Gift Giving

Gift giving can be a high stress point during any holiday season. Instead of spending hours making up a list and going shopping for the perfect gift, why not ask friends and family this year to make a donation to the charity of your choice in lieu of a physical gift? This works both ways in that you can make donations in their name as a gift that will keep on giving well past December 25th.

These are only a few suggestions on how you can help others during the holiday. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to also treat yourself as well, mentally and physically. We’re here to help you get through the holiday season.