LA’s Venice Run Club has one goal: to build a community of like-minded runners who advocate positive social change. The group was founded in 2020 by local resident and runner, Justin Shields, following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. It began with a simple running challenge, but as community donations grew, Justin, and his wife Erin, knew there was longevity in the work. The answer? 48 For Change, a non-profit aimed at bridging the Venice community through running, and uniting them with LA-based organizations fighting for a more just society. Here, Justin and Erin tell their story.
JS: The idea for 48 For Change came about in June 2020. It was a few months since the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and a few weeks after George Floyd’s murder and I felt pressure to do something. It was like a burning of the bosom. There were protests going on, the marches were all over the news. I thought, ‘How could I put myself in this sphere that could help the cause I care about so much?’ I’d already heard about the running challenge created by ultramarathon runner David Goggins, where people run four miles, every four hours, for 48 hours and a total of 48 miles. It felt like the right thing to do. My friend and I did the challenge over a weekend and called it 48 For Floyd. When other friends heard what we were doing, they reached out offering to create flyers or graphics. It showed me everyone wants to help, but they don’t always know how to take that first step.
JS: That weekend, our 48 For Floyd event raised $60,000 for Campaign Zero [an organisation working to end police violence]. I believe the difficulty of the challenge got people engaged. This is why people go on hunger strikes. It’s saying, ‘I’m going to put myself at risk like this because I care about this topic so much’. 4x4x48 is a test of will, of mind and courage. It was clear we could achieve a lot more than this one event, so I launched 48 For Change to continue our work of raising money for local organizations striving to help the local communities around Los Angeles.
JS: 48 For Change is a non-profit organization that continues the work of that initial 48 For Floyd challenge. Our aim is simple: Let’s just run and help as many people as possible. We organize runs through our Venice Run Club three times a week, and encourage our members to build a community through the common ground of running. Members of the Venice Run Club care about our mission, and they want to help. Thanks to them, 48 For Change has donated over $100,000 to local organizations implementing social change like Campaign Zero, Chick Tech and Smash. We have also held clothing drives; the amount donated just from our Run Club community is incredible.
ES: We realised that 48 For Change could create an awareness within the Venice community for those in need. If you live in Los Angeles, you’re either very comfortable in life or you’re really struggling – and we mostly deal with the former [people who are financially secure and able to donate funds, clothing and time to help causes]. So, the run club is now a place where people can be physically active, while making friends and learning about the issues and injustice other people face in our society.
ES: Now many of our Run Club members take part in our annual 48 For Floyd challenge in May. It’s important we remember how psychologically difficult and lonely the 4x4x48 challenge is – the runners don’t have others cheering for them like they would in a race. Yet, throughout, we remember it’s nothing compared to the pain other people [in our own society] are experiencing – which is the really powerful message we try to share through our members.
JS: So many people run in Venice – and when you have a conversation with those people, you see they are motivated, loving, caring individuals. So, the question is: how much awareness can we spread? The more our network grows, the more people we have advocating for the organizations doing important work. 48 For Change will continue to bring people together, through running, to raise money for these and other causes.
Find out more about 48 For Change.