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Racine pair helps homeless women get fit - and overcome obstacles

March 25, 2010, Racine, WI - Physical exercise provides both a physical and mental boost. That's why two Racine women decided to help others in their community get back on track by training for a 5k race. 

Maritza Byron and Amy Schaal meet weekly with eight homeless women living at the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) shelter for practice runs. "It's a struggle but we're doing it," Sandra Vann  told The Journal Times. "Just like in life - we have obstacles but we're still going."

The Friday runs give all of the women a chance to talk, bond, and improves everyone's energy level - as well as their outlook. One HALO resident, 60-year-old Donna Agosto, was worried she'd never be able to run a mile. Now she's a front runner during the weekly practices.

"She is our quiet hero. She works harder than anyone," Schaal told the newspaper "A couple weeks ago we did a mile time trial. She was so emotional to have run a mile. The look of bliss over her face was unbelievable."

The weekly sessions have done more than just help the women get fit. It's inspired them to take on new challenges, such as going back to school. The group also hopes to change some perceptions about Wisconsin's homeless population.

"I think in general, homeless people have a bad reputation of being lazy or not trying hard," Schaal told The Journal Times, "but these women have been meeting us every Friday at the YMCA for seven weeks trying to change their lives."

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