Community is a core pillar of Zulu culture and a fundamental part of the Balega brand and our corporate responsibility. For 2021, we are honored to partner with organizations that give back and help our larger communities in America and South Africa.
Lesedi Project & the Ethembeni School - In 2004, Balega launched the Lesedi Project in order to give back and strengthen its community. Lesedi means “Light and Enlightenment.” Light, which radiates brightly outward, and enlightenment, which shines deeply inward, are both concepts that connect the spirit of Balega with its greater communities around the world.
For the Zulu people in southern Africa, working with beads is an art form that has been passed down from generation to generation. Bead colors, used in traditional triangle-based patterns, are both beautiful and meaningful. Each piece tells a story.
As part of the Lesedi Project, Balega partners with the Ethembeni School, a boarding school established in 1984 that provides a safe haven for handicapped children from the surrounding region where they can learn and grow with their needs. Children may get around solely by wheelchair, they are visually impaired, experiencing Cerebral Palsy, or some other physical ailment. While the school’s mission is vitally important for the children in the region, only a small percentage of its operating costs is covered by the South African government. Many of the families are poor and cannot afford the full cost of tuition. They rely on outside fundraising to provide the children with the best care and education possible.
That’s where the Lesedi Project steps in. At the Ethembeni School in South Africa, beads are a symbol of education and hope for the future. At the school, students make necklaces and bracelets using the seven traditional colors (blue, white, yellow, orange, green, red, and black). Every year, these pieces are sold in the US to support the school and raise funds for a scholarship program, in which 12 children’s tuitions are funded through the sales of Lesedi beads each year. In the past, funds raised from sales of the beads have also allowed the school to purchase special equipment, like a wheelchair-accessible bus and therapeutic playground.
Back On My Feet - Back On My Feet motivates homeless people to work their way back into society by overcoming difficulties by setting and then achieving the running goals of each participant. Balega loves being part of each person’s journey every step of the way, and we outfit nearly all of the Back on My Feet chapters nationally, as well as support the organization with other initiatives and campaigns throughout the year, such as with the Meaningful Miles Virtual Run Challenge in 2020. We are honored to have members of our Impi team as Back on My Feet alumni, such as superstar ambassador Eliyah Hamner.
Grit & Grace (Breast Cancer Prevention Partners) - With the mission of prevention, Balega offers a limited-edition style sock where $1 from each sock sold is donated to the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). Balega encourages people to get moving, be fit and healthy, and BCPP works to expose and eliminate environmental causes of breast cancer. The Grit and Grace collection is forever dedicated to our Impi Queen, Kim Stemple, who passed away in 2019 from a terminal illness. Upon her diagnosis, Kim chose to focus her time and endless energy on making the world a better place. With a new understanding of the power of hope, she founded “We Finish Together” in 2012. A lifelong runner, Kim organized athletes to send their race medals to people battling sickness and those doing good in the world. Every medal is accompanied by a hand-written note of support and encouragement.
The 2021 sock phrases were selected through a user-generated contest at the end of last year and the phrases will be: Dig Deep, Adventure Awaits and You Are Limitless.
Veterans in Need - One of the organizations that Balega supports is Veterans in Need, in which 50 cents from every pair of Enduro Physical Trainer Balega socks that are sold, go to support Homes for our Troops. At the start of 2021, Balega made a donation of $24,000 that was raised over the past two year period worth of sales. Balega has been a longstanding partner since 2013 and continues to strive to bring hope and assistance to those who have sacrificed so much for our country. In order to be outfit compliant, the Physical Trainer Sock is ready for action on any military base.
Black Men Run - Balega is proud to support Black Men Run, which is an organization founded on the principle of encouraging health and wellness among African American men by promoting a culture of running/jogging to stay fit resulting in “A Healthy Brotherhood.” Black Men Run supports a wide range of abilities and is open to everyone -- from first timers to advanced runners, the organization strives to promote increased fitness through a culture of running. There are over 53 chapters throughout the U.S. with around 25,000 supporters. Balega will support Black Men Run throughout the year with product donations for events, as well as outfits all Black Men Run captains with Balega socks throughout the year. Balega will also find ways throughout the year to support the Black Men Run Foundation, their non-profit vehicle.
Black Girls Run! - We are honored to have Black Girls Run!'s Owner and CEO, Jay Ell Alexander as one of our longstanding Balega Impi ambassadors. Black Girls Run! was founded in 2009, in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African American community and provide encouragement and resources to both new and veteran runners. The organization’s goal is to encourage and motivate Black women to practice a healthy lifestyle by serving as a fitness resource for runners and gym rats alike, as well as provide tips and commentary on staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Balega will support Black Girls Run! throughout the year with product donations for events and other giveaways.
American Trail Running Association - Balega is a Switchback member for the ATRA, an organization that was formed in 1996 as a Colorado not-for-profit corporation to serve the mountain, ultra and trail (MUT) running community. ATRA’s mission is to represent and promote mountain, ultra and trail running. One way they help disseminate this information is through a quarterly ‘Trail Times’ newsletter that includes national running events, articles and timely information about the sport. We are honored to have ATRA’s Executive Director, Nancy Hobbs as one of our Impi ambassador team members.
Civil Rights Race Series - The Civil Rights Race Series serves as a participatory commemoration of American History. The race serves the following three purposes:
- Economic Development – To provide an economic driver for underserved communities that played a significant role in the American Civil Rights Movement.
- Education – To educate/advocate to multiple communities on the events surrounding several civil rights events. Ensuring through commemoration, an appreciation and value for the importance of these precious events, in the evolution of our world.
- Health & Wellness – Through our events, we plan to provide training programs and printed materials to serve as a beacon of encouragement to multiple communities on the positive outcomes of adopting a healthy lifestyle.
We are proud to support this race series with product donations throughout the year. In 2020 we supported the 1 Million Miles for Justice virtual event.