This past July, something in my brain snapped: I decided that running a half-marathon was going to be a great idea. I saw online that the Walt Disney World Princess Half-Marathon sign-up was about to open in 3 weeks and said "Yeah. Game on." Now...it must be said that I was not an established runner who was looking for the next big challenge. Not even close. I hate running. I never wrote running into my workouts and races were always out of the question. But now it's not and now I run regularly and my fondness for it is growing because on February 22nd, 2015, I will be doning my costume, along with my mom, sister and adopted little sister (lil' sis's bestie) and we'll be hauling it 13.1 miles all around Walt Disney World. I know, I know....I'm insane for jumping right in but I think that is what is so empowering about it--Just doing it!
The biggest tool so far for me in my training, besides having a solid training plan to begin with, has been an amazing and FREE little app called Charity Miles. Some of you might already be there with me and love Charity Miles as well. But for those of you who are unfamiliar, allow me to break down the details of how it works:
Corporate sponsors will donate money for every mile that you walk, run or bike. It's like being a sponsored athlete and the money goes to great causes! Cool huh? All you have to do it pick a charity--there are many--and start moving! It tracks your distance via the GPS in your smartphone and, when you're finished, your miles are logged into your history and a donation from the sponsor is made on your behalf. It's super easy and I love things that are super easy. If you would like to be a part of my team (and I really hope that you would like to be), you can hashtag #rockitfitness into the "My Teams" section of the app's main menu. It's a "Stength In Numbers" kind of thing and a greater donation can be made when we all work together.
There are a huge amount of charities that you can run/walk/bike for. When I first started using this app, I scrolled the list and said "By the Power of Greyskull..." in amazement, eyes wide in wonder. There were a handful that I was unfamiliar with so I wanted to break down all the charites with a little bit of info about them so that you can be a little less confused and overwhelmed about them all.
Team Red, White and Blue:
Team RWB's mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. In their local chapters, they connect their veteran members to regular fitness programs, social gatherings and local races and events. They also train other veterans to lead or start their own local chapter as well as host leadership and team-building camps to bring the veterans together. A very cool organization that brings our veterans together and gives them leadership and mentorship opportunities to other veterans in our communities through physical exercise.
For more information, visit their website at www.teamrwb.org
The Michael J. Fox Foundation:
First off, on a personal note, I love Michael J. Fox. I'm an 80s/90s kid--He was Marty McFly and Teen Wolf for crying out loud. And I think it's great that he has started this foundation, which is set up a little different from traditional research foundations. Its goal is to try to find a cure for Parkinson's, which is a disease that Fox himself has been diagnosed with. Their core values revolve around patients by speeding treatments that can slow, stop or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s disease; better treatments for the currently unaddressed or under-addressed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; and speeding treatments to address or avoid the debilitating side effects of current Parkinson’s disease drugs. They have an aggresively funded agenda in their mission and won't stop till a cure is found.
For more information, visit their website: www.michaeljfox.org
Teams For Kids:
Based out of New York, Teams For Kids are adult runners who raise funds for youth programs during their races, such as the New York City Marathon. These youth programs bring free running and fitness programs to over 200,000 students in under-served schools and communities. For more information on Teams For Kids or their programs they raise money for, visit www.runwithtfk.org/Page/About
Every Mother Counts:
A non-profit organization that works to reduce the number of women who die every year due to complications with pregnancy and childbirth. They invest 100% of the funds they receive to help 9 programs in 7 countries delivering supplies, education to women and helping provide transportation. For more information on this great organization, visit their website at www.everymothercounts.org
Girls On The Run:
I first heard of Girls On The Run a little over 6 years ago when one of my classmates told me she was a coach for the local program. I thought it was a wonderful concept for young girls to have such a role model for fitness as well as to inspire them to be happy and confident young women. Girls On The Run has many groups across the country that promotes physical activity and postitive youth development for girls in grades 3 through 8. The program culminates with a running of celebratory 5k! Find your local GOTR council on their homepage www.girlsontherun.com
Back On My Feet:
Back On My Feet is an organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living. Cool concept and cause, right? It's not about how many of their members who are experiencing homelessness become runners, but rather, uses running programs to help their members see themselves in a different light and give them the self-confidence as well as training classes to obtain jobs and housing. There is much more information about the processes and programs of this organization on their website at www.backonmyfeet.com
I have to be honest: There was more information about vaccines themselves than listing their precise mission and process so I had a little harder time getting that info for you BUT it is defintiely an organization that intends to help provide vaccines to children. It is my understanding that they try to get the vaccines to areas of the world and the United States that don't have easy access to them as well as helping provide funding gaps in getting vaccines to people. For more information, find them at www.shotatlife.org
The World Food Programme
The WFP is the world's largest humanitarian program dedicated to fighting hunger. It is the food aid arm of the United Nations and uses food aid to support socio-economic development, meet refugee and emergency food needs, help provide food security around the world for people who, either permanently or in times of emergency, are unable to produce their own food or do not have the resources to get food. It's overall goal is to build self-reliance through their program. Take a short quiz on hunger on the WFP webpage and feed a child! Easy as that! www.wfp.org
Nothing Buts Nets
Nothing But Nets is a campaign to raise awareness and funding for fighting malaria. It stemmed from a Sport Illustrated article about malaria written by Rick Reilly in which he challenged his readers to donate $10 to send insecticide-treated bed nets to Africa. www.nothingbutnets.net
Partnership for a Healthier America
This organization works with the private sector to help promote a healthier lifestyle for children and combat childhood obesity. This is mostly done through its main program Let's Move! which helps improve access to healthy foods, including schools, and increasing physical activity in before, during and after school programs.
World Wildlife Fund
The WWF was established as an international fundraising organization to work in collaboration with nature and wildlife conservation groups around the world. They work with all sectors in order to change policies in government, business and acedemic practices that will positively impact nature and help protect and conserve all living things for years to come. www.worldwildlife.org
Providing food to more than 46 million people, Feeding America is a nationwide collection of food banks. They provide food to more than 60,000 emergency shelters, food pantries and community kitchens throughout the United States. They also support programs that improve food security among the people they serve; educate the public about hunger; and advocates for legistration that protects people from going hungry. Find out how you can help at www.feedingamerica.org
Dedicated to the fight against AIDS, (Red) has gained much popularity through it's celebrity ambassadors, the most popular being Bono of U2. (Red) is a charity that works through the power of commerce. You can donate directly to the cause or purchase (PRODUCT) Red items from (Red) partners who donate a small percentage of their red (in color and name) products to (Red) to be used in helping prevent the spread of AIDS. See all the (Red) Partners and products at www.red.org
Stand Up 2 Cancer
This is another charity that has a large celebrity backing. Stand Up 2 Cancer's mission is "to raise funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now." They do this through working with top cancer researchers and using donations to help fund advanced therapies and get them to patients faster.
For more information visit them at www.standup2cancer.org
Just like their commercials with Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" playing in the background, I got a little misty just looking at the ASPCA's homepage pictures. ASPCA stands for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals so animal lovers unite! It is a huge nationwide organization that has dozens of programs to further their mission to help animals of all kinds. To find out more about their cause and programs you can help with, visit www.aspca.org
Founded in 2005 by grandparents of a child with autism, Autism Speaks is the leading autism science and advocacy organization. It's funding goes towards reasearch for finding treatment, prevention, and a cure for autism as well as raising awareness and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Learn more about Autism Speaks at www.autismspeaks.org
Habitat For Humanity
Habitat for Humanity believes that everyone everywhere should have a healthy, affordable place to call home so they build! Donations to this great organization can buy everything from a box of nails to wood to toilets to flooring. So far, they have built or repaired more than 800,000 homes. Find out more about this organization or your local chapter or their worldwide impact at www.habitat.org
According to their website, Alzheimer's Disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. A good friend of mine recently lost her grandfather who had Alzheimer's and nearly all of grandparents/great grandparents developed it later in their life as well too. Most of us know someone who has or had this disease. The Alzheimer's Association is committed to research to find treatments, prevention and a cure for Alzheimer's. They also have many local chapters that help caregivers and families with support groups, as well as educational and safety services. For the entire month of October 2014, I've been dedicating all my miles to this organization in support of my friend who lost her grandfather and everyone else who has watched a loved one decline due to Alzheimer's.
The Nature Conservancy
Located in all 50 states and over 35 countries, The Nature Conservancy was founded in 1951 with the mission to "conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends." They work with scientists, businesses, non-profit organizations and governments in order to protect different habitats around the world. www.nature.org
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The LLS is world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. Their mission is to "Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families." Funding goes to further research and to find new treatments as well as helping patients through offering different programs and services and advocating for changes in public policy. www.lls.org
Being a girl myself, I particularly like this organization, which is part of the United Nations Foundation. It gives American girls in middle and high school the opportunity to become global leaders to raise awareness and funding for adolescent girls in hard-to-reach places in the world. Many of these young women don't have the opportunity to go to school, see a doctor, or just be included in their communities and Girl Up helps with that. I had a hard time finding out exactly how they take action but the idea is really great. See more about this organization at www.girlup.org
DoSomething.Org is truly unique in that it encourages young people to do just as its name implies--SOMETHING. Targeted towards young people and their social media, there are dozens of campaigns and issues to tackle and "DoSomething" about through projects they can lead themselves. Anything! Whatever they are passionate about. DoSomething.Org also offers scholarship opportunites for their members! Find YOUR campaign at www.dosomething.org
Pencils of Promise
What started with one pencil to a little boy in the streets of India has now become an on-the-ground movement for education for boys and girls around the world. Pencils of Promise builds schools, educational programs and donates supplies to give children around the world access to education and opportunity. www.pencilsofpromise.org
Wounded Warrior Project
With a mission to foster the most sucessful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history, Wounded Warrior Project offers unique programs for services members who have been injured. Offering programs for PTSD, peer mentoring, family support and physical activity events, Wounded Warrior Project takes a holistic approach in helping its wounded heroes readjust back to life at home. www.woundedwarriorproject.org
Soles4Souls is a global non-for-profit based out of Nashville, Tennesee that collects shoes and clothing and uses them in two ways in their anti-poverty mission: in one way, they get many new donations from retailers from overstock, returns and discontinued lines. Secondly, S4S gets donations from individuals, churches, corporate partners, etc. Soles4Soles typically sells this clothing through small businesses set up in areas of the world where jobs are few in order to create sustainable jobs and generate much-needed revenue in these communities. Check out Soles4Souls at www.soles4souls.org
The Special Olympics has been around for 46 years and has provided year-round training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to share their gifts and experience the joy of competition with the world. Check out their mission and programs at www.specialolympics.org
She's The First
Similar to Girl Up, this organization sponsors girls' education in low-income countries to give them the chance to be the first in their family to graduate from secondary school. Primarily using technology and social media, She's The Frist connects sponsors to girls around the world. It's beyond "girl power" and feminism--She's The First has looked to studies and statistics as to why young women are the target of this organization. To see more of the "why," check out this cool organization at www.shesthefirst.org
Vision Spring believes that everyone, everywhere should have access to better vision. As someone with bad vision and VERY dependent on my corrective eyewear, that is good news. I didn't realize that uncorrected vision had a socio-economic impact but it does. I learned quite a bit about that from their website which you can check out here: www.visionspring.org
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America
The CCFA was founded in 1967 and is at the forefront of research for Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, which are both chronic diseases of the GI tract (ulcerative colitis specifically affecting the colon) with no current cure. Donations go to research, support programs, fundraising events and educational programs. Find out how you can help at www.ccfa.org
Achilles International's mission is "to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics in order to promote achievement, enhance self esteem and lower barrier to living a fulfilling life." Local chapters--there is one in Chicago--organize workouts and events for members. www.achillesinternational.com
First off, personal side note: Ironman competitions sound CRAZY hard to me. I know a handful of Ironmen (and women) and I always marvel at the athleticism. Back to the charity: The Ironman Foundation was founded in 2003 as a way for Ironmen to leave a legacy at each of the Ironman competition locations. They do this through philanthropy, volunteerism and grant making; supporting various athletic, community, education, health, human services and public benefit non-profits organizations around the world. www.ironmanfoundation.org
It has been really insightful for me to do this little project. The list of charities in the Charity Miles app is long and I was really overwhelmed when I scrolled through the first time. I hope that this helps you get the basic information needed in choosing the charity you want to support as well as giving you a direct link to finding more info about the ones that interest you. Happy running/walking/cycling and remember: Every Mile Counts!