Sophomore Collin Maher, a member of Mount Vernon School’s cross country and track and field teams, has organized his own 5K race as his Eagle Scout project. (Courtesy Mount Vernon School)

Mount Vernon School sophomore Collin Maher will launch the inaugural Cocoa Classic 5K in Sandy Springs as a way to buy shoes for every student at Lake Forest Elementary School.

Maher chose the 5K to be held at 9 a.m. on Feb. 18 starting at Mount Vernon School (510 Mount Vernon Highway) as his Eagle Scout project in Troop 370 at St. James United Methodist Church. He’s been Scouting since first grade.

He’s been a nationally ranked runner and is a member of the school’s track and cross-country teams. Competing with his track club in the indoor track season, he was ranked 17th in the country for Freshman 400m and 5th for Freshman 800m.

So he knows what a difference a new pair of shoes can make.

Collin Maher is a sophomore at Mount Vernon School. (Mount Vernon School)

Maher also knew that nearby Lake Forest Elementary School, where more than 60 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged, was where he wanted to help. His goal with the Cocoa Classic 5K is to raise enough funds to buy a pair of shoes for each of the more than 600 students who attend the school. Race proceeds will go to Shoes That Fit, a non-profit organization to benefit students of the school.

Last summer he started working on the 5K, first looking for information online at the city of Sandy Springs website. With his parents’ help on the legal side, he filled out forms with the city to secure permits for road closures and to have police and EMT on site.

He has partnered with race production company Raceworks to ensure the race is a USATF-certified loop course and an AJC Peachtree Road Race qualifier.

“As soon as you cross the line, your timing will be sent to your email,” Maher said.

Every finisher will receive a Yeti cup with the Cocoa Classic logo filled with hot cocoa at the finish line. The top finishers will also receive prizes. BioLiyte, the “IV in a bottle” drink, is a sponsor of the race.

The race itself is now registered as a non-profit to ensure that it is held annually, Maher said.

Mount Vernon School Chief Brand Officer Michele Koch said that hearing that a sophomore student had navigated the permitting process and undertaken the huge project was inspirational. The school tries to support its students and give them the freedom to think big, she said.

“The thing that I love the most about Collin’s story and his efforts is that it has an impact beyond just our immediate community, that there is a beneficiary,” she said.

Maher said he’s considering architecture or business in college, but he definitely plans on running.

Registration, which is solely online, is $40 through Jan. 18, $45 through Feb. 17 and $50 on race day. Onsite registration will not be available. At least 60 runners already had signed up soon after registration opened, with more anticipated closer to race day.

Maher competed for his track club during the indoor track season. (Courtesy Mount Vernon School)

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.