Stateline Strong: Annie’s Locker helps the Forest City run to a fit future


Runners get ready to lace up their tennis shoes for the Arny Johnson Classic. It’s going on Saturday, April 7th. The 10 mile run/walk and 5k run/walk begin at Harlem High School and goes through Rock Cut State Park. The race benefits Annie’s Locker which equips runners like Twylla Ross with the gear and inspiration she needs to live a healthier life.

“I’m all [rejuvenated] you know, heart pumping,” said Twylla. Twylla puts tennis shoes to tile inside Rockford Rescue Mission.

“I walked in these doors with a purpose after a near death accident due to a life long struggle with alcoholism. I’m here,” said Twylla.

She’s one of several women running toward recovery. By her side is no ordinary coach.

“Help them experience that comradery of working out together and help them train for races,” said Carol Bingley. She shares her passion for running with the Rescue Mission women each week. She didn’t begin her own fitness journey until 35, but when Bingley saw the benefits, she started up Annie’s Locker.

“It helps your life fall into place when you’re physically healthy,” said Bingley. 10 years later, Annie’s Locker is running strong on volunteer dedication and donations. That’s because each pair of shoes padding across the floor was given to the ladies in hopes of creating healthier habits.

“Going out to the Rescue Mission while they’re going through recovery, fitness is a big part of that. So we hope that by inspiring them and equipping them with shoes that they will get through the recovery a little easier,” said Terri Odell, president of Annie’s Locker.  Racks of shoes and tubs of clothes sit inside Odell’s gym, which houses Annie’s Locker gear.

From socks to sports bras, the donations make their way to kids and adults all over the Rockford area.

“It’s fun for all of us to reach into areas of Rockford,  other pockets that maybe don’t necessarily live in a fitness world or a fit area and offer them ways to find fitness,” explained Odell.

Orange bandanas are also at the heart of what Annie’s Locker is all about: running for two.

“It reminds us of people who are struggling, so we run for two for those who can’t,” said Bingley.

While Twylla has had her own struggles in life, she dedicates her runs to her cousin, Shontae. She’s thinking about someone else just like Annie’s Locker volunteers have thought about her. It’s a powerful show of support to someone looking to cross the finish line in the race to recovery.

“People who I do not know, love me.” said Twylla.”I appreciate that.”

20 women and men from Rockford Rescue Mission will participate in the Arny Johnson Classic on Saturday. Annie’s Locker has given more than 2,000 local students new socks and gym shoes. The organization also helps sponsor runners by covering the races fees.

Annie’s Locker is always in need of donations both monetary and gently-used fitness clothing. For a link to their website, click here.

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