Charlotte has proven it’s a pretty fit city, and charities have found they’ve met their match. There are triathlons and 10Ks, marathons and mud runs, many of which support non-profits that support everything from breast cancer to Crohn’s disease. Charities of all kinds are benefitting from the generosity of those willing to sweat out minutes and miles for their cause. Some of the biggest events in Charlotte, like this weekend’s 24 Hours of Booty, boast annual donations in the millions.
Charities are even turning to the treadmill set, where groups are gathering in gyms day and night all over the Queen City. In addition to burning calories, fitness centers are depositing dollars into the coffers of causes throughout our community. From CrossFit and CycleBar to every Orangetheory Fitness in between, franchise gyms are also feeling generous with their members’ money – and they are giving back on their behalf.
Pedaling for a Purpose
The communal fitness phenomenon is big in the Charlotte area. It takes place within the walls of YMCAs and yoga and cycle studios, as well as outdoors, with clubs based at breweries and at bike meet-ups. Many do it for the physical fitness, while others are simply altruistic about causes that affect those we know and love.
“If I’m going to train for a race, I like that it’s benefitting a greater good,” says Kelsie White, a three-year veteran of 24 Hours of Booty who gathers a group each year to make an even bigger impact. “It’s amazing to see this grow year after year and witness how much money is raised for cancer.”
The 24 Foundation (formerly known as 24 Hours of Booty) evolved immensely from one guy in Charlotte on a bike pedaling for 24 hours to change the conversation about cancer to 16 years later, with the ride now attracting more than 1,200 riders and 200 walkers to the annual Charlotte event. Today, they have raised more than $17 million to support their mission.
For those who prefer indoor cycling, you can rock your ride and still give back. Courtney Stachowski, owner of CycleBar Lake Norman, explains that charitable giving is engrained in the business evidenced by their CycleGiving foundation – one of the pillars of the organization. They partner with local and national organizations to raise awareness and funds for various causes.
“We have hosted rides to raise money for The Autism Society of Lake Norman; Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center; Cookies for Kids’ Cancer; Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids and the Fisher House Foundation,” says Courtney. “Since opening our doors four months ago, we’ve raised more than $5,000 for local charities.”
Fitness franchises find that charities boost engagement. Courtney explains that the response to their upcoming “Miles for Mammograms” ride has been tremendous.
“We’ll have the mobile mammography unit at the studio providing screening all day, leading up to a charity ride that afternoon, which is sold out,” she says. “We hope to raise at least $1,000 from this event alone.”
Connecting Fitness and Fundraising — Indoors & Out
Fast-growing fitness franchises, like Orangetheory Fitness, also practice the Golden Rule of giving back. They recognized that they are a force in numbers and put their money where their members are when they launched a fundraising effort for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research last spring. Thanks to their owners and more than 430,000 members across the United States, they raised more than $2 million — in just 2 weeks!
“We have been blown away by the generosity of our members and are extremely proud to be able to donate $2,085,305 to Augie’s Quest to aid the fight against ALS,” says Dave Long, co-founder and chief executive officer of Orangetheory Fitness. “ALS is not an incurable disease; it’s an underfunded one, and with this contribution, we hope to change that.”
Local Lake Norman Orangetheory manager Jessica Montford adds that they hosted a 90-minute Augiethon donation class that filled up right away, and they provided donation cards for members to make contributions throughout the two weeks of the event as well. “The members, coaches and staff were very proud of the donations we were able to make to Augie’s Quest and grateful we were able to participate.”
For Shannon Laatsch, founder of Shirley’s Angels, it’s been a personal journey of connecting fitness to fundraising. Shirley’s Angels is a foundation about carrying on the legacy of Shannon’s mom, who lost her battle with cancer in 2015 and her grandmother before that. When her sister was diagnosed, they caught the cancer early — a testament to early detection and the main message that her Warrior Angels relay throughout the community.
The largest fundraiser for Shirley’s Angels is their “Love Your Headlights: 5k/10k,” held annually on Mother’s Day weekend. Shannon believes it’s the perfect time to remember, honor and share her mom’s legacy with the community.
Claire Oosterhouse runs the race each year with her mom, not because she’s an avid runner, but because she believes it’s an important organization that benefits all women. “I’m not a big fan of running, but I’ll do it every year to honor my mom and support Shirley’s Angels.”
Shannon says that the run generates about 75 percent of the organization’s operating expenses, which is run by volunteers and functions solely on donations. “It’s a combination of generating awareness about breast cancer prevention and raising money for our foundation,” she adds.
Over the last five years Shirley’s Angels has raised over $100,000, primarily from men and women willing to pound out a few miles on the pavement in the name of helping a cause.
Find out how you can get involved with any of these non-profits and the fitness opportunities that support them by clicking the links in the article.
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