Do one mile and write a sign to show support for heroes of pandemic

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

It’s the freestyle mile — a crisis tonic.

Delaney Hayden’s sister, Brigid, participated in the Whose Shoes Mile challenge too. So did their brother, Ryan.

Participants, for example, can walk, run, drive, row, rollerblade, skateboard, or swim and dedicate it to the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others may make it a spiritual mile through prayer in Delaney Hayden’s Whose Shoes Mile challenge ( of positivity and gratitude.

The website and the related Instagram page show the milers (one, Christian Brothers Academy teacher Emily Paccia,even did a marathon) holding signs praising their heroes.

  “They’re delivering groceries,” said Delaney, a CBA sophomore, “they’re truck drivers, they are nurses and doctors on the front lines, they are law enforcement people, they are firefighters, they’re policemen and women, they are teachers, they are janitorial staff workers, and just so many more people — they’re all going the extra mile for us every day, and we thought the least that we could do to show them how grateful we are is to do a mile for them and dedicate it to them and let them know how appreciative we are of everything they do.”

As of last week, the campaign included almost 80 participants from not only CBA but also Le Moyne College, Pace University, St. Michael’s College in Vermont, and Immaculate Conception School in Fayetteville.

“We could see different states start to participate,” Delaney said, “and just different people that … I don’t even know, and it just kind of restores your hope in humanity. … There’s still good in the world and people still want to say thank you.”

For those wanting to participate, the website says: “Instagram: (please use #whoseshoesmile and tag us too!); gmail:”

So far signs have included gratitude for “everyone working hard to create a vaccine”; “grocery store workers: thank you for always stocking up and keeping up on delivery and pickup orders”; “the doctors and nurses working in hospitals”; “teachers leading the way in a new way of learning”; “all local restaurants”; and “truck drivers: thank you for all you do during this tough time!”

“It just started a few weeks ago; it’s been really neat to watch it evolve,” said Delaney, who started the campaign during spring break.

Kind, caring, bright, selfless

“When Delaney told me about her idea, I was not surprised as it aligns perfectly with who she is each day at school — kind, caring, bright, and selfless,” Matthew Keough, CBA’s principal, said in an email. “It also made me very proud to see CBA students from all different grade levels participate.

“It is important to lead but it is equally important to jump on good ideas and follow. It is a tribute to the respect that people have for Delaney. CBA or otherwise, it is inspiring to see young people use their gifts and talents to positively impact the world.”

Delaney hopes to continue her positive impact in the future; possible careers are psychologist or psychiatrist. For now, she loves writing and art, and she plays basketball, lacrosse, and soccer.

Both CBA’s boys and girls basketball teams won sectional titles this past season. The boys then won a state subregional game, and the girls were also headed into the state regionals. But the pandemic canceled all that. “Everyone was kind of in shock,” Delaney recalled.

“It was a pretty good experience,” she said of that championship season, “pretty awesome to be on that team. We were pretty bummed when we couldn’t continue with it, but it was definitely a great run, and in the end we just appreciated being able to win the sectional title and to walk away with that.

“We were really sad for the seniors especially; we had a lot of seniors on our team who were great ballplayers, and four out of the five, I think, are going off to play college ball. And they’re really sad about it but I think that we just appreciated how far we were able to make it, and just opportunities that we were given that season.”

And then, the spring lacrosse season was canceled also.

But gratitude endures; it stems from her family (“we pray the rosary every day with family and friends”) and her Catholic education, which started in pre-K and “certainly instilled thankfulness and many good morals in how I see the world and see other people as well. … I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to the positivity myself, and I wanted to share that positivity with others.”

Up to the hilltop

Delaney, who has a younger brother and a younger sister, ran her own Whose Shoes Mile challenge in her neighborhood, keeping social distance.

“It just really motivated me to push myself if I came to a hill,” she said. “I was like, oh, it’s so long, I don’t know if I can finish; I just thought of the people that I was running for; especially, I just did six and a half miles the other day for janitorial workers because my uncle is one of them and he goes to work every day and it’s keeping everything clean and everyone safe, and it is really inspirational to me. … These people go out there every day risking their lives for us to stay safe.”

And she has gotten feedback.

“We heard from a few nurses,” she said, “and a few janitorial workers and teachers too, and they really appreciated it, and that’s our goal; we want them to be able to see it and to send positivity to them, especially during this whole time, and thank them for their work.”

Can the campaign go global with a mile in the Pyrenees or something?

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” she said.

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