Atlanta Charity Partner: The Orange Duffel Bag Foundation

Every ZOOMA race has a charity partner; ZOOMA provides them with a booth at the expo, and entries to the race so that charity athletes can raise funds for the cause with minimal expenses. In Atlanta, the charity is the Orange Duffel Bag Foundation; here, we talk with Echo Garrett, the founder.

What is the Orange Duffel Bag Foundation?
We are a non-profit that provides coaching, training and mentoring for at-risk youth (ages 12-24), particularly for young people who are aging out of foster care. When I met Sam Bracken about seven years ago, and he shared his story with me. He came from a family he described as a whacked out version of The Brady Bunch on an episode of Cops. Homeless at age 15, he ended up getting a football scholarship to Georgia Tech. I was so moved by his stories and philosophy, we ended up working on a book together. We both share a passion for assisting the 20,000 youth aging out of foster care annually; they’re somewhere between ages 18 and 21, an age when most kids aren’t ready to be on their own.

Where did the name of the Foundation and the book come from?
When Sam moved from Las Vegas to play for Georgia Tech, all of his stuff fit in an orange duffel bag.

Echo speaking at a youth summit in Utah.

What brings you to Chateau Èlan on Thanksgiving?
One of the things Sam mentioned to me was that during holiday breaks in college, he was once again homeless when the cafeterias and dorms would close. He would pray that somebody would invite him home with them. I mentioned that fact at during an interview with the publisher of a local magazine. By the time I got back to my desk, he had reached out to Chateau Èlan, and the general manager offered 12 slots for kids in that situation. Word got around, and the resort is now going to feed and accommodate as many as 24 kids for five days, which is so generous. We’ve got some treats set up for the kids, like makeovers for the girls and free entries to ZOOMA.

Which race are you running?
I’m going to do the 5K; I’ve run two half-marathons, but didn’t have enough time to train for this one. The best part is that I’m running with Lena, who was originally adopted from Russia and has been in foster care for years. She’s going to school to be a nursing assistant and has so much love. I can’t wait to run with her. She and I are going to run as a mother/daughter team.

What can ZOOMA runners do to help?
We are looking for additional advocates, coaches and licensed therapists who are willing to volunteer with our youth, as well as connections to organizations and companies that would be willing to provide resources to our youth. They can raise funds for us on FirstGiving.org with a private fundraising page, give a donation to the foundation here or text the word “orange” to 85944 on your mobile device and automatically donate $10 to the cause.