Here at Giva, we search for organizations, large and small, that are doing a great job of changing the world around them for the better; and we are pleased to salute them here.
There is a beautiful symbolism to running. Participants take one step at a time, striding to reach an end destination or goal. It is an apt metaphor for how to overcome the challenges we face in life. When Anne Mahlum founded Back on My Feet (BoMF) in 2007, she hoped to bring this transformative power of running to a group of men experiencing homelessness. Running had changed her own life. Now she was hoping it would give a group of homeless individuals the confidence and control necessary to regain their own lives.
Since the first run took place in July 2007, Back on My Feet has grown into a nationally recognized organization with 11 self-sufficient chapters around the United States. Each week, the various chapters host a series of runs for volunteers and Residential Members or those experiencing homelessness. Once the members have dedicated themselves to their running, they are given access to other resources like educational support, job placement, and housing resources. The hope is that members will graduate the program as self-sufficient individuals in control of their life and their goals. Thus far about half of Residential Members have been able to advance their lives with a job or housing. In August of 2013, the 1000th member found employment, a testament to the success of the organization. It shows just how empowering running can be for people experiencing homelessness.
The secret to BoMF's success is in the dedication required of its members. Each Residential Member signs a "Dedication Contract" agreeing to show up for runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:30 a.m., to be on time for each event, to respect oneself, and to support all other participants in the program. Members are also required to fill out a goals sheet and an evaluation. At first, the focus is on running. Members train and compete in local races together. If after 30 days in the organization members have at least 90% participation, they are placed in the Next Steps phase of the program. Here, members meet with BoMF staff to discuss future aspirations and potential ways to achieve an independent lifestyle. They also have access to BoMF's resources, like employment training and financial assistance. Financial assistance is crucial for overcoming upfront fees, such as security deposits and outstanding fines. Those who are able to achieve independence often remain involved in running as alumni members. Running remains an integral part of their lives, and the foundation of their strength.
There are a number of reasons why this model works so well for members. All behavior is voluntary. Members are not forced to show up for early morning runs or events; the initiative is placed squarely on the participants, preparing them nicely for an independent lifestyle. Members are also recognized for their hard work, where every mile and achievement is tracked by the organization. We all appreciate being recognized for our dedication, and BoMF incorporates this element nicely into their mission. Finally, running is an excellent way to teach dedication, perseverance and fortitude. As many members will attest, it is an introspective activity that has the potential to be truly transformational.
Over the last seven seven years, Back on My Feet has established itself as an exemplary organization. By harnessing the power of a simple activity, its volunteers have changed the way hundreds of people view themselves. Their actions are appreciated and serve as an excellent example for us all.
Mizuno is one of the many companies that have picked up on the great work being done by Back on My Feet. To help support the organization, it launched "The Mizuno Baton." The project was fairly simple: runners were encouraged to download and activate the Mizuno Baton app. They then had one week to run as many miles as they could. For every mile run, Mizuno donated 1$ to Back on My Feet. The initiative ended at the end of 2014, but it raised $87,458 for BoMF.
The project could point to a couple of reasons for its success. It was an exciting way to engage a number of people in the mission of Back on My Feet, and it was very easy to get involved. But most importantly, it targeted the close-knit and competitive running community in a positive way. Credit is due to Mizuno for capitalizing on something so close to its brand in order to help an excellent charitable organization. Although the challenge has ended, Mizuno says to stay tuned, as this was just the first step.
Congratulations again to Back on My Feet, and to Mizuno for their work with this beneficial organization!
To learn more about Back on My Feet or to help out, visit http://www.backonmyfeet.org/