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On December 11, Siva Balu, the vice president and chief information officer at the YMCA of the USA, began the Dreadmill Challenge, an event to run 100 miles on a treadmill to raise awareness and funds for Sarah’s Inn, a non-profit that provides services to victims and families of domestic violence.

In addition to Siva’s role at the Y, he is also a board member at Sarah’s Inn and a member of his local West Cook YMCA, in Oak Park, Illinois, who he said was instrumental in making the event a success by offering their facilities.

“From our Y’s perspective, we wanted to support Siva in his endeavor and support another local agency, especially during COVID,” said Phillip Jimenez, the president and CEO of the West Cook Y.“

While the challenge gave Balu 48 hours, he completed his 100 miles in just 31. “It was a long two days, but whenever I hit a low point, the thought of supporting Sarah’s Inn kept me going,” said Balu.

The challenge was hosted in the babysitting room of the West Cook Y, currently unused and sporting three out of four glass walls looking out over the corner of the front entrance. Staff outfitted the room with two treadmills, a refrigerator, a microwave and two couches to dedicate the entire space to the challenge and supporting Siva’s goal. Additionally, QR codes were posted outside the room that members and staff could use to donate to Sarah’s Inn on behalf of the challenge.

“It’s inspiring to our members to see someone taking on this challenge,” said Jimenez. “For our members to see other people set lofty goals and accomplish them – to me, that was the payback – setting up an environment in which another member could demonstrate that you too can do it.”

The funds raised during the Dreadmill Challenge go directly to Sarah’s Inn to help them continue to provide free counseling, 24-hour crisis line, advocacy and services to any victim who walks through their doors.

If your organization is interested in partnering to raise awareness for another, Carol Gall, the executive director at Sarah’s Inn, suggested finding an organization whose work and mission resonates and aligns with your passion for recreational activities. “Reach out to local organizations that are making an impact in your community,” said Gall. “They are always looking for wonderful advocates of their work to collaborate with and to network.”

In addition to hosting an event or activity at your facility, Gall said there are numerous ways to partner with local, non-profit social services agencies to help meet the needs of their clients and families. “Provide free activity days for families or a special rate for families in need,” said Gall. “You can also offer space at your facility for local non-profits to provide programming and support.”

Read Siva’s full experience completing the Dreadmill Challenge.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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