February 27, 2020

Rich Singer: Helping Young Athletes in Need

Rich Singer  and Travon Dugar Muhammad’s Sole Brothers nonprofit donates gently worn athletic shoes to athletes in need. 

The seeds for the organization were planted back in 2010 when Singer and Dugar Muhammad were working as coach and assistant coach respectively at Santa Monica’s private school Crossroads High. 

Needing a community service project, a group of graduating eighth-grade basketball players including Singer’s son, held a shoe drive. They donated the shoes they collected to the Santa Monica Police Activities League. The following year, Singer established Sole Brothers.

Singer is Jewish and Dugar Muhammad is Muslim. To date, the interfaith duo has donated more than 4,000 shoes. They also provide incoming college freshmen with extra funds to pay for school through the foundation they created last year. The organization also operates a club basketball program serving approximately 90 children.

 “We’re proof that a Muslim and Jew can get along,” Singer, 60, said.  “At our heart and soul we are similarly aligned as far as what’s important to us —  being parents and just being good human being[s] on this planet.”

Singer has worked as an educator for the past 15 years. Along with leading Sole Brothers, he also has volunteered with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and the JCC Maccabi Games.

“We’re not going to let money be a deterrent to [going to college]. That’s always been our philosophy. We enjoy and appreciate serving the community in that regard.” — Rich Singer 

Dugar Muhammad, 44, a Crossroads alumnus, played Division II basketball for UC Davis. About 10 years ago, he injured his right arm in a motorcycle accident. Today he works as a coach at both Sole Brothers and at Crossroads.

“He lost the use of his right arm, but not the use of his heart and soul,” Singer said.

Grantmaking group the Bartman Foundation has provided Sole Brothers with a “huge donation” to help the group’s recently launched scholarship program, Singer said. 

“We’re not going to let money be a deterrent to [going to college],” he said. “That’s always been our philosophy. We enjoy and appreciate serving the community in that regard.”

Sole Brothers depends on young people who know about the organization growing out of their shoes quickly and donating them to the group. Young people also collect shoes for Sole Brothers for their b’nai mitzvah projects, Singer said. And while Singer and Dugar Muhammad are pleased with their success so far they are not trying to grow too quickly. 

“Travon and I are cautious not to expand too much because we don’t want to put the program at risk,” Singer said. “We’ve grown it organically every year.”

Nevertheless, they would like to attract greater support from donors.

“I’m aware of the fact there are a good number of foundations that need to donate money every year,” Singer said. “If we got a small amount of a number of these, the number of people we [could] reach would increase.”

Ultimately, Singer and Dugar Muhammad are living out their values. “It’s good for the soul,” Singer said. “Pun intended.”

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