Saturday, December 4, 2010

The relationship between charities and endurance athletes

Trish from "My Path To Travel" emailed me the other day. She wrote a blog entry on a recent growth in the relationship between several triathletes and the Blazeman Foundation in support of ALS awareness and research. Check it out here

Trish's email got me thinking. My first efforts in endurance sports were with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. I joined the team primarily for selfish reasons. I wanted to complete a significant event (the century that I signed up for) and I felt that the support that they would give me would help me out in this quest. While I viewed raising money to help fight blood cancers was as noble of a cause as any, I did not have a passion for the mission of the society. I knew of people on the periphery of my life that had this disease but this cause wasn't front and center in my life.

With my relationship with TNT, I've met people that I now consider friends that have a much more personal reason to be associated with the team. I've also been to too many funerals of friends who lost their fight with these diseases. In the meantime I've completed 15 or so events with the cycling, running and triathlon TNT teams with the St Anthony's Triathlon in May 2011 as next on the schedule. I've coached several seasons and have mentored newbies to the finish line of their event. My family has been involved with my wife, sister, BIL, and niece completed events with the team. My kids are in the recruiting videos since they have been at so many events cheering me on (I personally never made the cut for the movie).

Oh, as a byproduct, I've raised about $100k for the society. Needless to say they are somewhat appreciative and they have wanted me to consider "running" for their Man of the Year award a couple of times. I've politely (for me) declined.

But ALS and Leukemia are not the only diseases that have sponsored athletes or events with training programs. While I'm sure I'm going to miss some, some of the big programs that come to mind on addition to TNT are the Multiple Sclerosis Society sponsoring their series of bike rides, Fred's Team to support research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the The Challenged Athletes Foundation. It seems like almost every local race sponsors a charity in some manner. With several Ironman races there is the Janus Challenge as well although I'm not considering doing this for my race. I won't comment on the "community slot" program.

It is still a bit of a mystery to me how these relationships between charities and athletic events came to happen. I'm sure I can spend some time researching but the big question is are these relationships bad? My gut feel is that I don't think so. I can't comment on how efficient or effective these programs are for the athletes or the charities themselves. Some I'm sure are better than others. I think it could make sense to look at them if you feel a passion via a personal relationship with what they stand for or if they align with your goals.

December is the time of the year when the charities seem to get the bulk of their donations. I've seen many stories where donations are down and here is a link for a story of a local charity, The John Theissen Children's Foundation that is having problems (full disclosure I've donated to John's Foundation in the past and plan to this month). The economy isn't great (donations are down) and more people are needing help these days (demand is up). This is a bad mix.

I'm sure you are asking what does this mean, why am I spending time writing this, and why are you spending time reading this. I don't normally ask a lot but it would be great if my, as Trish called you, big readership could take a moment out and think about a way to help out someone this holiday season. I'm not going to say where or how because that is a personal decision. It doesn't need to be money and it could mean a lot to someone. Maybe that someone will be you.

Rock on.


Unknown said...

I like to participate in the Jingle Bell run for arthritis each December. This is my 5th year running. So far, our local chapter has raised over $18K from this little 5K. It's my small way of giving back...

Kathleen said...

Thanks for writing this. In the craziness of this time of year it is good to be reminded of what is truly important.

Jon said...

Incredible how much you have raised over the years!

I see the connection between athletes and charities as athletes follow through with stuff. If they can follow through with training and finishing a race, raising money shouldn't be any harder for that type of person.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Team Roll is a charity riding team. I remember my first charity ride with them, it was really winding, and a team mate said out loud, "man this sucks" when another teammate turned and said "this is nothing compared to what people went through with this terrible disease we are riding to support"

that stuck in my mind forever

Sue Sitki said...

Wow - nearly $100k! That is awesome!

I run through the trendy and expensive part of Toronto (Yorkville... where they have the Film Festival) in nothing but a red Speedo bathing suit and accessories, raising money for the Sick Childrens' Hospital - it's next weekend, actually... but have yet to enter a triathlon for a charity donation spot (ok... I'm so slow on the course, I'd be afraid of a DNF.. but when I get faster, I intend to!)

Keep up the good work!

Happy Holidays!!