During the month of November, Sam Sayed and his brother Sharif each lifted over 1 million pounds to buy shoes for children in need. They were inspired by a memory of their sister Dayna, who tragically died in a drive-by shooting when she was 16 years old.
After the family lost their mother, Dayna became the mother figure to her four younger siblings. One summer she worked hard to make enough money to buy new Nikes for her brothers.
"We remembered what it was like to go to school with those shoes on," explains Sayed. "We were really excited, and there's a downstream effect of going to school with enthusiasm."
Weightlifting has always been important to Sayed, who began lifting in middle school. He earned a kinesiology degree and worked as a personal trainer before coming to Drexel to attend the Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) program. When his brother came to him with the idea of lifting 1 million pounds in November, they knew they wanted to make it charitable somehow, and that's when they were both inspired by Dayna.
"People don't always remember what you do for them or say to them, but they remember how you made them feel," says Sayed. "Just like Dayna made us feel. The shoes she got us eventually wore out, but the impression she left on us, her willingness to work hard and her selflessness, has stayed with us."
The brothers teamed up with a counselor at Foster Elementary in Arlington, Texas, where they had attended school. They began with a modest goal of helping out one family, but when they visited the school, they saw the need was much greater.
View Dayna's Footprints photos on Facebook
So they pushed out their call for donations, went to the gym daily, logged their weight and eventually were able to buy shoes for 53 kids.
"It was overwhelming," Sayed says of the day they gave the shoes away. Parents and children arrived at the shoe store where Sayed was able to share his story and explain to the kids that it wasn't just about shoes.
"It's about having an instilled confidence and a great attitude about going to school. And it's also knowing that there's people out there who really believe in you despite your circumstances."
The event also helped Dayna's legacy live on. "Our family has done a pretty good job of walking in Dayna's footprints," Sayed explains. "Now after this first event, we have 53 more kids who are walking that path too."
Sayed is now working on establishing non-profit status for the charity, which he is calling Dayna's Footprints. He and his brother are hoping to turn this into an annual event and expand it to be able to help more children in need.