Two brothers are doing something good to honor the memory of their big sister and what she did for them with a pair of shoes.
"Dayna was on this earth for 16 years but she left a lasting legacy that would make you think she lived to be 100," said Sam Sayed, co-founder of Dayna's Footprints. "And one of the last things she did for us, a lasting memory for us, is that she saved up all summer to buy us our first pair of name-brand shoes."
Sam grew up in Arlington with four siblings, and big sister Dayna stepped up after they lost their mom to asthma.
"She took care of us, made sure we had lunches, that we were fed, that we got to school, that we came back and did our homework," Sam said. "She really took over, and she was big sister and mom at the same time."
Then in 1997, Sam and his siblings lost Dayna, too. She was killed in a drive-by shooting at the age of 16.
Years later as Sam worked in a gym, a challenge to lift a million pounds of weight during November sparked an idea between him and his brother Shariff. They were 11 and 9 respectively when their sister died, and decided the weight challenge could be used to do "something good" in Dayna's honor.
Dayna's Footprints was born in 2018 with the goal to get new, brand-name shoes to kids just like she had done for them so many years ago.
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"For us to get those Nikes was something really, really special to us. It left a lasting impression on us. It's something that was transformative," Sam said. "We have a big belief that those shoes gave us the confidence and gave us the will to want to go to school more often."
The first two years, the brothers focused on kids at their former elementary school, Foster Elementary in the Arlington ISD.
"One of the most important parts of our initiative is having the children show up to the store and choose the shoe for themselves. We could have gotten shoes donated but that would've taken away that experience of showing up at a shoe store and not having to worry about money," Sam explained.
Now two years later, more partners are on board including the TCU-UNT Health Science Center School of Medicine in Fort Worth where Sam is studying to be a doctor. With 120 students in the class, the goal this year is 120 pairs of new shoes for students at Foster and other schools.
The Fort Worth medical school's 120 students will work with partners in their Learning Communities that include the Como, Stop 6/Eastside, Northside/Diamond Hill neighborhoods in Fort Worth and Foster Elementary in Arlington to identify students in need, said the medical school in a news release.
To raise the funds, medical students will participate in a million-pound weightlifting challenge in November and a million-step challenge in December generated on social media by Dayna's Footprints. Donations will be collected through the organization's website from Nov. 1, 2020, through Jan. 1, 2021.
For Sam, it means every day he's in the gym lifting weight to reach the nonprofit's goal.
"Bench press 165 pounds, 100 reps that will get me to 16,500 for the day. It's a whole lotta reps, so I average about 30,000 to 40,000 a day in weight," Sam said. "I'll get to about 1.3 million myself. My brother's getting to about that. And we have people all over the nation doing this."
Sam even jokes the challenge changes what he stocks in his closet. There are "post November clothes that I have ready because I put on a little bit of weight after November that's for sure."
While this is the third year for Sam to take on the November million-pound weightlifting challenge, it's the first year for the December million-step challenge an idea that came directly from his classmates at the medical school.
"The goal is just to get to a million steps. Part of helping people is not just the shoe, getting shoes for the children but it's also to get people up and active. There are layers to this initiative. By helping others, you're helping yourself as well," he said.
It's another example of how Sam's big sister continues to touch lives.
"We're trying to build an army of people walking in her footprints so that her legacy is not only spoken about but it grows and continues to help people," Sam said.
And Sam will do that, too, as he pursues "a burning desire" to become a doctor. The decision came later in life. He's 35, older than his classmates but believes life experience boosts his passion for medicine.
"I just really really want to help people. I've seen how medicine can do wonders and save people's lives in one community but also fail the next one over. And, it's that community that's missing out on the greatness of medicine that I want to go back and help," Sam said. "My family, and some of our trials and tribulations, is a result of a lack of education in medicine, and a lack of access to medicine, and I think that by learning through my experiences, I can go back and help people that are in similar situations as my family was when I was growing up."
How to Donate to Dayna's Footprints:
You can donate any amount to the Dayna's Footprints Initiative at any time from Nov. 1, 2020, through Jan. 1, 2021. To donate, use this link.
How to Participate on Social Media:
The November Weightlifting Challenge runs from Nov. 1 through Nov. 30 using the hashtag #120for120 on your social media posts. You can download the weightlifting plan and progress tracker using this link.
The Million-Step Goal runs from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31 using the hashtag #120for120 on social media posts. You can download the step plan and progress tracker using this link.
Everyone participating in the challenges on social media will be asked to use the hashtags #120for120 and #DaynasFootprints to document their progress in the million-pound weightlifting challenge and the million-step challenge.