These Inspiring Health and Fitness Charities Are Changing the World
Girls On the Run
Girls on the Run is an after-school program that teaches confidence and life skills through twice-weekly team building and running games. Each session finishes with the girls running a 5K. Their mission is to "create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams." You can participate by becoming a run coach for one of their 200 councils (in all 50 states!) or by making a financial contribution. (This other amazing charity is using sports to empower young girls in Morocco.)
Every dollar donated to Feeding America becomes 10 meals for an individual who is food insecure (lacking reliable access to nutritious meals). They have 200 food banks, 60,000 food pantries, and serve nearly one in seven Americans. Their goal is to serve healthy, well-balanced meals to people in the United States who need them. You can get involved by volunteering at a local food bank or by making a monetary donation.
Charity Miles is an app that turns fitness into funds for a charity of your choosing. You pick the movement (running, walking, biking, dancing) and the charity (from a list of 40 partners). For every mile you move, the charity earns money from the corporate sponsor pool or you can get friends to sponsor you. You get a workout in and a worthy cause gets money—win-win! (On the flip side, the app Lazy Jar donates
money to charity if you don't hit your fitness goals.)
Project Fit America
Fitness education programs are brought to elementary and middle schools across the country through Project Fit America. They provide equipment, curriculum, and teacher training to the schools that receive their grants. The goal is to teach children to take ownership of their health and show them that fitness can be fun.
Achilles International was started after founder Dick Traum, an above-the-knee amputee, found support at his local YMCA and became the first amputee to run a marathon (it was the New York City Marathon, no less!). He wanted able-bodied volunteers and disabled runners to come together to train in an environment of support and community.
You can support the mission, which has more than 65 chapters in the United States, by volunteering or donating. (Read the story of one runner whose life is forever changed from joining Achilles International.)
Partnership for a Healthier America
Founded in 2010 and supported by former first lady Michelle Obama, the Partnership for a Healthier America is working to solve the childhood obesity crisis. They're tackling the issue from two sides: First, by making healthy food options affordable and accessible for all families and, second, by increasing consumer demand for healthier options. The latter encourages major companies to develop and sell those nutritious foods.
Girls Inc. believes that girls who live healthy and active lifestyles are less likely to engage in risky behavior; they are eager to learn, successful in school, and more likely to graduate from postsecondary education. The research-backed programming at Girls Inc. offers healthy living classes and activities (like sports), academic support, and life skills training. You can find your local chapter to become a mentor on their website.
Back On My Feet
Back On My Feet takes a unique approach to tackling homelessness. Their program is created with the belief that the first step toward securing jobs, homes, and new opportunities is to restore confidence and self-esteem through running. They recruit members of homeless shelters and residential facilities for early morning runs.
After they've completed 30 days of runs, they move into the second phase, which includes job training, employment referrals, and housing resources. Back On My Feet is currently operating in 12 U.S. cities—you can volunteer to participate in the early morning runs, fundraise during races, or make a financial donation on their website.