With his girlfriend employed by a local healthcare conglomerate, RUNdetroit co-owner Justin Craig heard tales from the frontlines and knew local healthcare workers were experiencing their own anxiety and trauma.

“During our phone calls, she’d tell me how rough each day was and how stressed she and her colleagues were,” Craig says.

That’s why a request from customer and local photographer John Martin struck a particularly loud chord.

Martin asked Craig if he could purchase Clif Bars for a donation to local healthcare professionals working to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While RUNdetroit doesn’t stock Clif Bars, Craig suggested an alternative and introduced Martin to his friend, Stacy Sloan, the owner of Three Little Birds, an all-natural baked goods company headquartered in Michigan.

“I had the connections to step up and help better someone’s situation, so why not?” Craig says. “This was an opportunity for all of us to help each other toward something worthwhile.”

Though Three Little Birds’ forte is primarily foodservice to industrial facilities like schools and cafeterias, Sloan was so smitten with Martin’s idea that she matched his purchase case for case. After Martin purchased two cases of Three Little Birds granola at wholesale cost, Sloan shared two more. Craig than gave Sloan a $180 gift card to RUNdetroit to compensate for her lost profit on Martin’s wholesale purchase.

“It’s a fortuitous loop of all us working together and supporting one another,” Craig says.

On March 27, Craig delivered four boxes of granola – some 800 individually wrapped units – to Martin’s home alongside a fresh pair of Saucony Kinvaras that Martin had ordered himself the day prior.

“That delivery was the highlight of my day,” says Craig, whose seven-year-old running store has been closed since March 24 per Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. “We’re working 10 times harder right now for 10 percent of the revenue, so to be a part of this effort was a real change of pace and something that recharged me.”

The granola eventually made its way to the eight-hospital Beaumont Health system, later distributed to the medical staff and support personnel like janitorial services making the hospitals move amid COVID-19.

That giving spirit is resonating across the run specialty channel right now with many other running stores stepping up to support healthcare workers and first responders. In Columbia, MO, Fleet Feet teamed up with CEP and UCAN to provide free compression socks and hydration to healthcare workers, while Michigan-based Playmakers supplied hundreds of pairs of footwear to a local healthcare system. On April 6, Runabout Sports in Roanoke, VA, delivered dinner to emergency department staff at a local hospital.

“Most small businesses didn’t open because we had dreams of the caviar lifestyle. We did it because we had a passion for our industry and we can share that passion with others,” Craig says. “We’re proud to be a part of this grassroots business community … and we’re grateful for our healthcare professionals who selflessly put our health before theirs.”