The North Face has named Gazelle Sports of Western Michigan the winner of The North Face Explore Fund Never Stop Exploring Award, recognizing the specialty running store that demonstrates the most complete dedication to encouraging and enabling outdoor exploration within the community. The specialty dealer, with five locations, was selected for its fun and creative programs designed to appeal to runners and walkers of all ages.

“Gazelle Sports has done an incredible job of developing programs that encourage both kids and parents to get outside and push their personal limits,” said The North Face Vice President of Sales Michael Millenaker, who presented the award to Gazelle Sports co-owner Ken Sung at The Running Event 2011 conference and expo for running specialty stores in Austin, TX Friday. “Gazelle Sports truly embodies the spirit of the Explore Fund Never Stop Exploring Award and we’re proud to support them as they continue to get the people of Michigan outside and on the trails.”

True to a store named Gazelle, the store developed an event called the “Dirty Herd,” which began as a staff outing on Sunday nights. After a few weeks it was expanded to customers and the program now encompasses more than 700 trail runners. The store also hosts a free fall trail run, “The Fall Classic,” which passes through a local orchard that attracted more than 300 runners last year, including many families. Additionally, Gazelle Sports is a long-time supporter of youth running program Girls on the Run, and has created a partner program to encourage parents and kids to run together.

In recognition of Gazelle Sports’ contribution to the Western Michigan community, The North Face will donate $5,000 to help build community programs. The North Face created the Explore Fund Never Stop Exploring Award in 2010 – a retail-specific complement to the brand’s Explore Fund grant program for non-profits – in an effort to encourage Running Specialty stores to initiate local community programs that break down the barriers to getting people outdoors. The award recognizes and supports retailers with programs dedicated to inspiring and enabling the next generation of explorers.

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