IHS Alumnus Continues Following in Dayna's Footprints
March 11, 2021
In spite of the disruptions of 2020, alumnus-founded organization Dayna’s Footprints had its most successful year yet, providing 150 pairs of shoes to children in need.
The organization was founded in 2019 by Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) student Sam Sayed and his brother, Sharif. The brothers were inspired by the 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 a mother figure to her four younger siblings. One summer she worked hard to make enough money to buy new Nikes for her brothers. Now Dayna’s brothers are paying her work forward, providing kids in need with shoes that are more than just something to wear.
"It's about having an instilled confidence and a great attitude about going to school," said Sayed, who graduated from the IHS program in 2019. “And it's also knowing that there's people out there who really believe in you despite your circumstances."
Dayna’s Footprints’ biggest fundraiser is the Million Pound Challenge each November: participants track daily weightlifting accomplishments and attempt to lift 1 million pounds of weight by the end of the month. The heavy lifting helps catch the attention of donors who support Dayna’s Footprints financially.
In November 2020, 35 participants across the U.S. lifted a combined 26 million pounds. The year’s fundraising allowed Dayna’s Footprints to partner with five schools – four in Sayed’s Texas community and one in Nevada, at the request of a community organizer there – so students could visit their local shoe store and pick out any pair of sneakers that appealed to them, at no cost to their family.
Dayna’s Footprints served almost triple the kids in 2020 that it did in 2019.
“I think this speaks to the inherently good souls of people and furthermore, speaks to the impact my sister left in her short time on this Earth,” Sayed said.
2019 fundraising efforts had included a family-friendly bowling event that couldn’t be replicated in 2020. But Sayed said his new classmates at the Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center (TCU and UNTHSC) School of Medicine – where he is a first-year medical student – helped him raise over $7,000 in 24 hours with a Giving Tuesday event and online raffle that had prizes from businesses near the medical school’s Fort Worth campus.
Sayed said his IHS experience, and the people he befriended along the way, have also helped expand the reach of Dayna’s Footprints. “Through Drexel’s IHS, I met an incredible family that supported this effort,” he said. “Because of them, Dayna's Footprints is recognized from coast to coast.”
IHS Class of 2019 graduates Stephen Acheampong, Quincy Akaba, Kameron Medina, Dip Patel, Billy Ramirez and Khalil Taylor act as chairmen for Dayna’s Footprints and will establish fundraising chapters for the organization at their respective medical schools.
Patel is working to found a Dayna’s Footprints chapter at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), where he is a first-year medical student. Patel was drawn to work with Dayna’s Footprints not only to help his friend, but also because of its mission.
“Among the many things I love and admire about Dayna’s Footprints is the mission to instill confidence in young people,” Patel said. “One of the most important things I’ve learned in life is that the initial circumstances of an individual are not as important as the ability of that individual to adapt and rise to adversity. The latter is often a matter of confidence.”
Both Patel and Acheampong were grateful for the support of friends, family and other followers as they shared their November 2020 weightlifting journey – and the fundraiser it supported – on social media.
Like Sayed, Acheampong knows firsthand that since school students inevitably compare themselves to their classmates and worry about how their peers view them, a new pair of sneakers can make a major change.
“People may be wondering ‘why sneakers?’ But it’s not necessarily about the sneakers – it’s about the confidence they instill,” Achaempong said. “My first pair of ‘name-brand’ shoes helped me find my confidence and helped boost my self-esteem. That confidence and self-esteem have led to me now being in a position to apply to medical school as a Black man.”
At present, Sayed is working with a research mentor to track and measure the outcome of new shoes in the lives of the children benefiting from Dayna’s Footprints. He was inspired in the work by the College of Medicine’s director of curricular innovation and student success for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies Program, Douglas Baird, PhD.
“I do believe hearing my sister's story, and knowing just how much the community cares, will have profound and lasting effects on these children,” Sayed said.
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