Last month, Rita Pierro ran into Ashley Thrower, a physical education teacher at Richland Creek Elementary School, at a Goodwill store.
Thrower, who previously taught Silver Sneakers fitness classes for seniors before joining Richland Creek, was using her own money to buy sneakers for her students at the school. Children who didn’t have proper shoes couldn’t participate in gym activities and had to sit on the sidelines and watch.
Pierro, a participant in one of Thrower’s Silver Sneakers classes at 02 Fitness in Wake Forest, wanted to help.
“Ashley has a heart of gold,” Pierro said. “I wanted to do something to encourage her good deeds.”
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She reached out to people in her Silver Sneakers classes, some of whom had attended Thrower’s courses, and together they began raising money and collecting donations of shoes and socks for Thrower and her students.
On Thursday, Pierro and eight other seniors presented Thrower and other staff at Richland Creek with $500 and several baskets of new or gently used shoes and socks.
“We believe in the importance of physical fitness, and we hope these gifts will help provide your students with every opportunity to participate in class,” Pierro said. “Thank you, Mrs. Thrower, for your kindness to your students. We want to say, ‘Keep up the good work,’ and ‘We are very proud of you.’ ”
Richland Creek, on Wallridge Drive in Wake Forest, has more than 400 students; more than 40 percent of them receive free or reduced lunch, an indication of their economic needs at home. Thrower is a first-year teacher at the school.
“I’m very grateful and didn’t know all of this was going to come about,” Thrower said. “I’m hugely surprised.”
Jean Carter, one of the donors who attended the event Thursday, worked as a guidance counselor in Wake County schools for more than 30 years and knows that school supplies are often lacking in schools.
“Students are often in need,” Carter said. “I’m so glad we could all help.”
Betty Umstead, a guidance counselor at Richland Creek, praised Thrower for her dedication to the school and thanked the group for its donations.
“Community involvement makes a difference in the lives of children,” Umstead said. “It takes a village to raise a child, and thank you for being a part of our village.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler