Give support

What: Fleet Feet Sports will hold its monthly “Support the Girls” special. For each Moving Comfort sports bra purchased, the manufacturer will donate one to a program for young women in local JROTC programs.

When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: 881 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mount Pleasant.

Cost: The retail value of the bras are $50-$60 each.

more info: 606-2546 or www.fleetfeetmount pleasant.com/events/support-the-girls-event

The obesity epidemic among youth has many facets, but one that hasn’t received much attention is the importance is properly fitting sports bras.

Local wellness advocates stumbled across it last spring while doing exit interviews after a three-year research project with 11 high schools with Junior ROTC programs in the Charleston County School District.

Coleen Martin, a registered dietitian with the MUSC Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness, was interviewing Air Force JROTC instructor Lt. Col. Lonnie Ford at Stall High School and he shed light on the issue in late May.

“Most of the girls did not run or work out because they were hindered by the movement of their breasts or the size of breasts,” says Ford, adding that a large percentage of the JROTC girls are obese or overweight and many were wearing three bras.

Martin and District Physical Education Director Dave Spurlock were newly acquainted with Amy and Chris Minkel, who had recently opened Fleet Feet Sports in Mount Pleasant, and asked if they may be able to help.

The Minkels jumped at the chance and were headed to the annual Fleet Feet conference in California in early June.

They arranged a meeting with vice president of sales with Moving Comfort, a major manufacturer of top line sports bras, and pitched the idea of getting sports bras donated for the JROTC programs.

“They (Moving Comfort) didn’t hesitate after I explained to them why this was needed,” recalls Amy Minkel.

“This is something they (the females in JROTC ) really need. They don’t need it just for PT (physical training), but to be active generally. It’s a confidence issue for a lot of them. “

Without hesitation, Moving Comfort was on board, agreeing to donate the first set of sports bras, 125 in all, and then set up a program to supply more.

Specifically, when customers buy a Moving Comfort sports bra on a designated weekend of the month, the company would donate one to the program.

The retail value of the bras is $50-$60 each.

The Minkels are calling the initiative, Support the Girls, and will hold the special this weekend, Friday though Sunday, at the store.

The effort is part of an ar-ray of outreach programs that the store undertakes, including the “School Give Back” program, a loyalty program where the store will donate 10 percent of a sale to a specific school’s wellness program.

Because Ford was the first to present the sports bra issue, the girls in Stall’s JROTC program were the first to get new sports bras.

Before that, a female crew from Fleet Feet, including volunteers, took measurements for fitting.

The process confirmed what Ford had told Martin, according to Minkel.

“When we measured them, we also had them fill out questionnaires. The responses came back saying they were self-conscious and not confident,” says Minkel, noting that because the JROTC training is co-ed, the issue was exacerbated.

Two weeks ago, the girls got their bras and Minkel gave a “Good Form Running” clinic at the school.

Ford says the program has helped break down walls.

“The girls are starting to talk about health and staying fit. Before, they wouldn’t talk about it. Now, they are asking questions about it and talking about what they eat,” says Ford, adding that it will help create a “wellness culture” at the school.

Martin, Ford and Minkel agree that the collaborative effort came to fruition so quickly, relatively speaking, because “it was meant to be.”

Minkel says she hopes to be able to extend the program to the entire population that needs it, even though the problem goes beyond socio-economic boundaries.

“I have grown women who come to me on a daily basis in the store who are wearing three sports bras,” says Minkel, noting that the bras are often bought at discount stores and are poorly made.

“We want to start these women early and help them understand the importance of a fitted sports bra (because) it’s not something a lot of them learn at home,” says Minkel.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.