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Georgia teen takes shoes off runners’ feet for Jamaican teens

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That O'Neal Wanliss would be concerned about Jamaica is only natural. After all, the Holy Innocents (Ga.) School sprint star is of Jamaican descent, which he considers a factor in his success on the track. That he would go to the lengths he has to help children in Jamaica is another matter entirely.

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Holy Innocents track star O'Neal Wanliss

Holy Innocents track star O'Neal Wanliss

Hoping to find a way to help his father's native land, Wanliss decided to start a collection drive to send track and field spikes to teenagers in Jamaica that desperately need them. The initiative, which Wanliss has anointed "Spikes 4 Tykes," has been single-handedly spearheaded by the North Carolina recruit, who personally approaches other schools' coaches and athletes about getting them to donate their cleats once they were done with them.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell, the Spikes 4 Tykes drive has rounded up dozens of shoes so far, though Wanliss has much larger goals. Others can contribute to the drive by coordinating with Wanliss at wanlisson@bearsmail.org

The entire idea started as part of Holy Innocents' Program for Global Citizenship, which is geared toward encouraging active leadership and global goodwill for its students. Wanliss wanted to find a way to help young Jamaicans because of his heritage, and thought back to other anecdotes from his childhood.

"I've played soccer all my life, and whenever I had old cleats, I would send them to my family and cousins in Jamaica," Wanliss told the Journal-Constitution. "With my class project, I saw this as an opportunity to expand on what I had been doing, but with track cleats."

One of Wanliss' instructors made it clear that his students' efforts would go much further than simply the end of his career at Holy Innocents.

"Above all, O'Neal is passionate about the development of young people in Jamaica," Holy Innocents teacher Quinton Walker told the Journal-Constitution. "As such, it elevates his social entrepreneurship project to something more akin to a personal mission to help build the educational experience of youth in rural Jamaica.

"His efforts will live well beyond his high school career at Holy Innocents."

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