Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Value of Cause-based Training Programs

Contributed by: Jamie Osipenko, Director of Team in Training – Ontario Region

There are many amazing ways in which you can give back to your community or help support a cause through fundraising.  One of the ways is through signing up to participate in a race that is associated with either one or a variety of charities from which you can choose to donate. Another popular option is to sign up to participate in a training program that offers the full-on training experience from beginning to end. These unique programs give you the opportunity to fundraise for a great cause while offering professional sport-specific coaching, event registration, travel to and from your event, team support and celebrations, as well as mentored support by organization staff to help you reach your fundraising goals. Training for an endurance event such as a full or half marathon, triathlon, or cycling event is a commitment that can be daunting on your own, and fundraising can be no less intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. 

When I did my first race as a participant for Team in Training back in 2004 I was really nervous about asking people to donate. I had a wonderful mentor who brought it to my attention that really the worst thing that could happen would be that someone would say no. When I thought about it, I realized that hearing the word no wasn’t the end of the world, so with that idea my campaign began. I wrote a letter explaining what event I was training for, and how I was raising money to help fight blood cancers. I kept it light and funny while still conveying the gravity of the disease and how important donations would be. I made 200 copies and sent it out to everyone I knew across the country: coworkers, clients, friends, family, and friends of family. I told complete strangers what I was doing and why. By the end of the season I had raised over $5000.00 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I had made it my personal mission to tackle my fundraising from the very beginning of my training, and because of this I didn’t have to worry about scrambling at the end. That first season I was part of the most insanely fun athletic experience of my life! We were a large team of new and experienced triathletes who supported each other in the pool, on the bike, and on foot, and who helped each other meet and exceed fundraising goals. We were a make-shift family, united in our efforts to have fun while raising money and training hard. It was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I went on to be involved in other seasons and events for Team in Training, including triathlon, marathon, and a mountain hiking season. I have spent time over the past several years either fundraising myself or helping others to brainstorm and implement fundraising events for different causes. Being able to combine athletic endeavor while supporting a cause has, for me, been an extremely rewarding and ultimately satisfying experience.
If there is a cause that you have a personal connection to and you want to try a sporting event then look to see if they offer a program like the one I described. You can also choose a program based on what race destination they are offering. When I signed up for that first triathlon I didn’t even own a bike, but I really wanted to go do a race in Maui, and that was how I chose that particular program. That decision changed the course of my life, quite honestly. Also, it is important to know how the money you are fundraising will be utilized once it’s in the hands of the charity, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. A reputable organization will be happy to share with you the breakdown of what happens to the funds you are collecting on their behalf.

Ultimately, signing up for a race event while raising money for a charity is a wonderful experience for both body and soul. Whenever I had moments of doubt in my ability during a race I was always sustained by the thought of the people out there that were fighting a disease that maybe, just maybe, there would someday be a cure for, and that that cure would be accomplished through funds that I had taken a part in raising.

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