It all started when a man called the judge who had sent him to a state prison and asked for a favor. The man asked Craig Mitchell, a judge who serves at the Los Angeles Superior Court, to come down to the Midnight Mission shelter and addiction center. Once there, one thing led to another, and the judge met with the president of the shelter, located in the heart of L.A.’s Skid Row.
Both men got talking about ways to improve the lives of the recovering addicts and former criminals who live in the mission.
They decided the best thing to fight future crime was a running club.
“When I came down here… we sort of put our heads together and came up with the idea of coming up with a running club,” Mitchell said. The club now regularly runs nearly six miles across streets and bridges in downtown L.A.
For many of the club’s members, jogging has been a key to their recovery. Resident David Askew, an artist, said he “never intended for my life to end up the way that it did.” The running club helps him and many others to recover from addiction and find meaning and self-esteem.
One of the founding members of the club was Ryan Novales, who, before living in the Mission, battled homelessness and addiction. His addiction cost him jobs, as well as his relationships.
When Novales finally arrived at the shelter, he was in a rough situation. “I just couldn’t stay sober. So when I came here, I was really out of options. It just didn’t seem like it was ever really going to change.”
After joining the judge’s running club, the two became close friends, and the regular exercise became a big part of Novales’ recovery. More than that though, it was the connection he made with Judge Mitchell that really struck him:
“He saw us for who we are and he treated us like equals. That was important in those early stages. You know, trying to find some kind of self-worth and some self-confidence and some positive momentum in life.”
Novales has been sober for almost five years. He lives in a nearby apartment, but works at the mission helping other men to change their lives for the better. He joins 20 fellow running club members participating in the Rome marathon this weekend in Italy.
This isn’t the first international trip the group has taken together. A full length documentary was made about the club’s earlier trip to Africa—check out the trailer above!
Judge Mitchell is helping foot the total cost of traveling to Rome ($77,000), as well as buying shoes for most of the club members. The Midnight Mission running club will lace up in Italy on Sunday, many miles away from Skid Row. See more on that in the video report below.
One person truly can make a difference.