Community You watched the Olympics. Now channel that energy for good.

    You watched the Olympics. Now channel that energy for good.

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    The Scotiabank Charity Challenge has helped raise money from runners, walkers and their networks to help people in need. From raising funds and awareness about poverty and disease to creating actionable steps to help those less fortunate, the initiative has raised more than $87-million across the country. Some of the races involved with the challenge include the Ottawa Marathon, Calgary Marathon and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which recently announced (and sold-out) an in-person 10K to go along with their virtual run. For charities like Future Possibilities for Kids (FPK), the races, and the people who participate in them, are natural incubators for people to lend a helping hand.

    “We take our lead from our children,” says Tammy Ebuen, of Future Possibilities for Kids, who works with kids between the ages of nine and 12 to provide coaching and individualized goal-setting that helps their young people form healthy habits. Ebuen says that the pandemic put stress on many Canadian children, especially the ones who wouldn’t normally have access to the type of programming FPK provides, like nurturing a kid to spearhead a project, such as cleaning a park or creating an environmentally-themed website. Runners, she says, are naturally inclined to be sympathetic to the FPK mission, because goal setting, discipline and organization are inherent skills each runner needs to employ. 

    “We ask kids to use ‘possibility thinking,’ to stretch themselves and think outside the box,” says Ebuen, adding that her charity helps to provide children with the type of individual coaching that can change a life. “I think many of our themes are stories that resonate well with runners.” 

    The pandemic has revealed a very disturbing theme, and that’s the glaring food crisis in this country. Second Harvest Canada is another Charity Challenge partner, and one that works closely with the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). Any Ontarian athlete has probably seen the Second Harvest crew handing out bananas and bagels at the STWM finish line. Second Harvest works with donors across the food supply chain, from farm to retail, recovering and redistributing unsold healthy food, keeping it on plates and out of landfills. They pivoted early in the pandemic and expanded their work across Canada to help meet the growing need for food—last year alone they provided 4,300+ non-profit food programs from coast to coast with access to rescued surplus food, helping feed 1.3 million Canadians. Second Harvest is hoping that this year’s runners will help them reach their goal of raising $25,000, which will allow them to rescue enough fresh, healthy food for over 50,000 meals.

    Peter Kentie, director of finance for UrbanPromise Toronto, has equally lofty goals for his charity this fall. He says the Olympics, and the ongoing Paralympics that are taking place right now, could serve as an additional launchpad to help spur more runners to charitable action. 

    “I read that Damian Warner—Canada’s Gold Medal Decathlon champion—grew up in a so-called ‘bad neighbourhood’ in London, Ontario. He stated he had no path in high school until two basketball coaches recognized his potential and took him under their wings,” says Kentie, whose group helps kids with athletics, but also literacy and experiential learning. “There are many ‘Damians’ around us. This year, how can we engage and invest in youth to become more actively involved in making positive contributions to their communities?”

    It’s safe to say that all of us runners want to contribute to our communities. We want to support local businesses and races and pay back the network we lean into and take so much from. A great part of the racing experience is the charity component, and as many of us know, the running takes on a heightened significance when we can run not only for ourselves, but for somebody else. 

    This year, the Scotiabank Charity Challenge is operating under continued stressed conditions. With the mix of virtual and in-person racing, it’s a transitional period for us all. But there are people out there, perhaps more now than ever in our age of COVID, in dire need of assistance. As Tammy Ebuen with Future Possibilities for Kids puts it, athletes setting a goal are the perfect demographic to help raise funds for her group. 

    “The greatest outcome we’ve seen in our children is rising confidence and self assuredness, which is a direct result of setting goals and following through,” Ebuen says. “These are universal ideas and concepts—themes that resonate with runners, for sure.”

    To support one of these or hundreds of other charities by fundraising for or making a one-time donation in one of the Fall Scotiabank Charity Challenges, please go to: Scotiabank Calgary Marathon; Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon; Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon.

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