This past November, my only nephew, Bryce, was diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder called Krabbe Disease, for which there is no treatment or cure. My nephew will never sit up, let alone walk or run. He’ll never get to toss the football with his Daddy or get to play tag with his cousins (my daughters). He will never get to tell his Mommy he loves her.
As his auntie and his Mom’s sister, I feel helpless, wishing there was something I could do to better support them in a situation that’s helpless in and of itself. Maintaining Bryce’s CaringBridge page and website doesn’t seem like enough; spreading the word about his benefit seems miniscule. And while I know my sister really just needs me to be there to let her cry and talk through her pain and grief, I still wish — I will always wish — I could do more.
So when my aunt asked if I thought my sister would be OK with her organizing a fitness challenge in honor of Bryce, I said yes. She also wants to help in some way.
The B.Strong for Bryce 40-Day Fitness Challenge kicked off last week. The goal is to inspire family and friends to set personal health and fitness challenges that they can complete by March 1st, and to tie a financial incentive to their actions — the proceeds of which will go toward Bryce’s care as he battles Krabbe. We’re asking them to walk, run, lift, bike, MOVE for Bryce.
About 75 people have joined so far, committing to everything from walking 100 miles to swimming 3,000 laps as a family to jumping rope 300 times per day. It’s a win-win: They’re helping out a special boy in need, while improving their own health and fitness. And research shows that tying health and wellness endeavors to a meaningful cause like this is a surefire way to increase fitness and motivation, as reported in an Experience Life article published in December 2012:
Thanks to the feel-good environment and focused sense of purpose, participants reap rich physical and psychological benefits beyond the walking, running, climbing and biking that takes place at the events themselves. Even those who choose to provide sideline support stand to get back far more than they put in. The Corporation for National and Community Service reviewed studies from sources like Duke University to look at the correlation between volunteering and physical health. Their discovery: Virtually any kind of volunteer activity can reduce intensity levels of chronic pain, lower rates of depression and reduce mortality risk. The social ties it creates can even improve immunity.
I may not be able to take away the physical or emotional pain of Bryce’s diagnosis, but I can help financially by moving physically. My challenge: To do 5,000 kettlebell swings at $0.05 per swing. That’s 125 kettlebell swings a day for 40 days.
I’m seven for seven days so far. And I plan on swinging every day until March 1st — and well beyond. It feels so good to be taking action.
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Jamie Martin is Experience Life‘s director of digital initiatives.