We all know that leading an active lifestyle has many benefits. You don’t have to be training for an IronMan® to find that fitness will improve your quality of life, lighten your mood and strengthen both your mind and body.
I’m always inspired by people working to “reclaim” their health and fitness. It’s such a gift they are giving themselves. What inspires me further, to the point of tears, is when I meet people training for a cause. Some start out with the notion “As long as I’m training, why not help someone else along the way,” others want to aid the cause and dig deep to channel their inner athlete. As a former Tour Director for the largest cycling event benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people who fall into both categories.
I am in awe of all of them.
This particular event is The Wish-A-Mile (WAM) Bicycle Tour. A 3-day 300-mile or a 1-day 50-mile bike tour through the great state of Michigan. This July will celebrate the 25th riding of WAM, an event that began with a challenge among friends. I’ve been part of this ride in some way or another since 1999; as a staff member, volunteer, donor or just plain ‘ole cheerleader at the finish line. Early on, my husband and brother-in-law rode while I served as a staff member on the tour. Last year, I Co-Directed the event once more and watched with envy as my husband and over 20 of my Tri-Team training buds saddled up to ride. I watched with pride (and did I mention envy?) as my pals came across mile 300, complete with a finish-line escort and medal ceremony from their 6 year-old Wish Hero. The Rider and the Wish Recipient form a unique relationship, each a hero to the other. You can understand why participating in this event as an athlete has been on my list of dream events for 13 years. It is top of my bucket list.
Finally, THIS is my year. I am saddling up to ride 300 miles, by far the most I will have ever traversed on my own effort. My physical goal is to finish. My heart’s goal is raise enough money to grant 2 wishes, a total of $10,000.
To date, my longest ride in 64 uncomfortable miles and I’ve raised $6,550, so there’s a lot of work ahead of me. But I am up to the task. It’s a good thing that I love to ride!
Cycling is the 2nd of 3 disciplines in Triathlon and I’ve come to love it. In fact, it is my favorite of the 3 disciplines as it offers a) no fear of drowning and b) doesn’t immediately induce a throbbing pain in my feet. For me, hitting the road for a long ride is one of life’s great joys. Knowing that I’ll be training and participating in an event that will make an impactful difference in the lives of children and their families is beyond joyful.
It brings purpose to my hobby. It brings meaning to my effort.
But most importantly, it brings a wish to a child and bringing hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions is pretty amazing.
I get to be a Wish Granter. What’s better than that?
How can you leverage your training for the greater good?
Here are 5 tips:
1) Identify your favorite charitable organization and reach out to them.
Chances are their website will list their upcoming fundraising events. If your charity of choice has a national affiliate, be sure to check their website as well as with your local chapter. If you cannot find a “good fit” between your activity and your charity, ask them to consider approving your own personal fundraising effort.
2) Raise awareness.
Educate yourself on your charity’s mission, the population they serve and the services they deliver. Think of yourself as an ambassador to the organization. Ask for a free T-shirt or a window cling/bumper sticker. Being able to speak confidently about their mission spreads awareness and expands their reach.
3) Set a goal.
Once you’ve established your event, set a fundraising goal. Don’t be intimidated by the minimum amount the event is requesting, stretch yourself beyond that. Then, tell everyone you know about your goal, ask for their help and provide them with instructions on how they can donate. Then, be sure to THANK every single donation that comes to you.
4) Form a team.
Invite your training friends, members of your local gym, family, neighbors, who ever, to join you in an effort to raise funds and awareness for your cause. Make it fun, with a team name and even team swag to show your team unity!
5) Share your journey.
Leverage the power of social media and make frequent posts on your favorite on-line platforms. Post pictures of your training efforts and keep your readers updated on your progress, both physically and financially. The biggest gift you can give a non-organization is more participants raising awareness and fund on their behalf. If your journey inspires just one more person to join the effort, you’ve done a GREAT job!
For more information on the Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour, to join Stephanie’s team “Tour de Wishes” or donate to the effort, please visit www.wishamile.org or view the video:
Stephanie Goetz is an amateur tri-athlete juggling many hats: busy wife, mother to an adventurous young trio, wish-granting fundraiser and small business owner. She is the author of the popular fitness blog Running High Five which chronicles her daily attempts to train for the sport of Triathlon, in which she will never finish first. A long-time self professed “average” runner, she has completed several marathons and countless 5K-10k races and after discovering Triathlon in 2009, has been hooked ever since.