Friday, February 22, 2013

Charity Miles: Miles of Smiles

310 miles. 

That's how far I've run since I started running in earnest again in my post-40 life last year and turned on my Nike+ running app to track how far I've gone. I started running again for me and I started running for charities. I've noted before in my blog that I'm not a person who runs for the sheer fun of it, so it helps me to be motivated by doing some good in the world to help others. Because 310 miles seems like a lot of work to me and somebody's life should be saved if I'm going to bother to do all that!

Most times, it's a portion of the race fee that helps a charity. Sometimes, I even fundraise and ask my friends to pledge. And then...this year a revolution happened. Charity Miles!

Charity Miles is a free app I use on my iphone that lets every single mile count to benefit charities from a short list of great organizations. You can run, bike, or walk with your Charity Miles app engaged. It tracks your mileage using the GPS on your phone and gives money (20 cents per mile for runners) to the charity of your choice for EVERY MILE! Sponsors donate money to Charity Miles and then all you have to do is exercise to do something good for yourself and for your chosen cause. For instance, when I started using it, when I started I always ran for...

because I advocate for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in my volunteer work with RESULTS all the time and they rock! Charity Miles tracked my mileage, my time, and gave me a real time read out of how many anti-malaria bed nets I'd earned for someone in need! HOW AWESOME!!! Nothing more inspiring than to see the impact of your effort in real time when you're working out.

Well, then I got the bright idea to turn on Charity Miles on the morning walk to take the kids to school and the afternoon walk home. And sometimes to just put the phone in a kid's pocket when she was running around in circles in the park. Yay! We racked up even more miles! But then the kids' got wise to what I was doing and insisted that sometimes we had to start walking for

because they like to earn vaccinations for puppies and kitties. Ok..fine :)

Meantime, the kids and I started training bigtime for the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon weekend races, happening this weekend by the way! I'm signed up for the 13.1 mile half marathon, the 9 yr old is doing the 5K with me, and the 7 yr old is doing a 400m dash. We are fundraising for Shot@Life to bring vaccines for polio, measles, rotavirus, and pneumococcal virus to kids in developing nations. Lo and behold, just before I went to Washington DC for a trip to lobby Congress for global vaccines a new charity popped up on Charity Miles...

Well, what could be more perfect? Walking around Capitol Hill, I turned on my Charity Miles all day and earned money for polio vaccines. And in my training runs - the ones NOT on a treadmill because you DO actually have to be moving around in space for this to work - I've been earning more polio vaccines. And when I run 13.1 miles on Sunday...yep, more Charity Miles and more polio vaccines!

So next year, if I log 310 miles or event more, I know that they are going to be even more meaningful miles than last year. Please join me and turn on the Charity Miles app whenever you hit the road. Exercise is now a great way to save your own life AND someone else's, too!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RESULTS: Nothing Less than the End of Poverty

There's a secret in the world of fighting poverty that shouldn't be a secret at all...

Maybe you've heard of us, maybe you haven't. But if you're interested in helping children and adults struggling in poverty and/or learning how to effectively lobby for change, you really should find out why U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called us "the greatest citizen's lobbying organization in the history of Western civilization."

RESULTS is a leading force in ending poverty in the U.S. and around the world. We create long-term solutions to poverty by addressing the root causes of poverty: lack of good health, education, and economic opportunity. We do it by training ordinary people to become extraordinary voices for the end of poverty. When regular people become empowered advocates, they turn into everyday heroes!

Here are the three big reasons that I've been a RESULTS volunteer activist and donor for many years:

#1 RESULTS activists are "Super-Activists"
Maybe you've seen those online petitions where you click on a button to make your voice heard? Those can be very useful, but that kind of "clicktavism" is not what we're talking about here. What we're known for is training empowered individuals to build strong personal relationships with members of Congress and the media. Those relationships built on trust, respect, and professionalism allow us to "go deep" with decision makers on the issues beyond a few talking points. We want to build "political will," meaning we want elected officials to personally have the desire to fight poverty themselves instead of just taking action because they were pressured by voters.

It's not uncommon for RESULTS activists to be on a first name basis with a senator or congressional staffers. While RESULTS staff supports us with great coaching and issue experts, volunteers feel empowered to own the whole relationship. We set up our own lobby appointments. We personally know the office admins and schedulers. We recognize our members of Congress on airplanes, elevators, and farmers markets in our communities and we're always ready with a practiced "elevator talk" on our favorite anti-poverty issue...just in case! This is all possible because empowerment is key to our culture. 

#2 No Wimpy Goals Allowed
I was recently in a RESULTS meeting where this statement was made: "I don't know. That just seems like wimpy goal. That's just not very 'RESULTS,' is it? Let's go bigger." That made me smile because it touched on something fundamental in our culture. It's right there on the logo. We're not out to just to reduce child mortality rates or decrease the number of hungry Americans although those are important goals along the way. We want to stop these terrible things completely. We're here to END POVERTY. To paraphrase Professor Muhammad Yunus, we want to put poverty in a museum where people will someday come and visit to find out what poverty was like since they can't find it anymore out in the world.

We started out as an organization to fight global hunger over 30 years ago, but there were such strongly interrelated aspects to poverty and hunger that we just had to take on more. Today, we fight for the health, education, and economic justice for people in poverty in the US and around the globe. We take a holistic approach and fight on many fronts because our goal is nothing less than the end of poverty.

#3 Big Impact for Epic Change
Think about a meteor crater. Consider how a relatively small piece of rock, because of the power behind it, can have such a big impact on the surrounding area. That's how I like to think of RESULTS. We don't spend tons of money on advertising or have hundreds of thousands of advocates. We use our resources very strategically to influence the right decision-makers at the right time to make epic change.

I'm a former engineer so I like to think of RESULTS as a "force multiplier," something that adds more power to the effort you actually put in. It's a financial force multiplier because donations to us fuel advocacy to direct millions of federal dollars toward smart, effective anti-poverty programs...or make those programs smarter, and more effective. Donor dollars actually go much farther - sometimes 100 or 1000 times farther - than if the dollars were donated to a direct service charity. It's a force multiplier of effort because our strategy and cross-country teamwork gets more mileage out of my advocacy actions than if I were acting alone. 

But it's not just me that believes in the method and mission of RESULTS. Take it from someone much smarter than me...internationally respected economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs...and if you are moved to know more, visit to join us or donate to our mission: ending poverty!

"I don’t know another organization that is as effective, that shows the leadership, combines the moral commitment and the practical impact of RESULTS."
  Jeffrey Sachs, Economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Princesses Racing to Give Kids a Shot@Life

It’s long overdue, but my family is less than a week out from heading to the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend where we are running for Shot@Life and I want to tell you my story, explain why we are running for this particular organization, and invite you to help us save kids’ lives.

A Bit About Me: First off, I’m not a natural runner. I'd rather have a nice big sticky bun for breakfast (see left) than get up and run any day of the week. I ran my first marathon 16 years ago at the 1997 Walt Disney Marathon because I felt I needed to show myself I could achieve something impossible. I hated running and I thought if I could complete a marathon, I would never again say to myself “I can’t do that. That’s too hard.” I was absolutely right and that achievement is at the foundation of many successes in my life…particularly the ones that involve becoming an international anti-poverty activist. I actually learned to enjoy 3-5 mile runs and it has become an important part of my mental and physical health. I’ve been away from long-distance running for over a decade. I’m returning now – post 40th birthday – to run for a life-saving cause, Shot@Life, and to inspire my own children to setting great goals.

A Bit About My Kids: I'm proud of my kids who are little global health lobbyists and always willing to take actions that help other kids. Last year, when I was running a charity 5K, my eldest wanted to run with me. I didn’t want to subject her to a winter morning run in Illinois, so I set up a webpage for her to raise money for running 2 miles around our local track when it was warmer. She excelled and showed me that she could be up to the longer race. Her jealous little sister even jumped into run a ½ mile just to show everyone she could. When I discovered the Princess Half Weekend involved kid races, too, I thought it could hold perfect events for each of us: a 400m, a 5K, and a half marathon. This will be a return to long distance running for me, first real races for the girls, a destination with nice vacation, and a symbolic last hurrah for our Princess phase as both girls were starting to say that they were “done with Princesses” and “into Pokemon.”

A Bit about Shot@Life: Since I volunteer for many different organizations, it was important to me that my girls pick the cause themselves. They chose Shot@Life, which raises money and awareness for vaccinating children in developing nations against polio, measles, rotavirus, and pneumococcal virus. They relate to this issue because they get their own immunizations and have seen me go to Uganda with Shot@Life where many children die from easily preventable diseases. They have heard me speak on behalf of Shot@Life, but to make sure that they understood what we were doing, I asked them to make a video about why they chose to run for global vaccines. Both girls said that they were saddened by the fact that every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from a disease that could be prevented by a simple vaccine. The youngest recalled her classmate was hospitalized for pneumonia, which is completely treatable in the U.S., but deadly in a country where children cannot get to a doctor. They are cheered by the knowledge that $20 can save a child from four deadly diseases. Every time someone donates, they are genuinely excited. Saving lives together is brings a sense of purpose to our goal that we’re all very proud of.

A Bit About the Races: A fun part about the challenge is that costumes are part of the Disney Princess race culture. My 9-year-old and I will be running the Royal Family 5K as Pocahontas and Meeko. Long brown hair worn Pocahontas “Colors of the Wind” style in the Florida humidity will be my biggest challenge there! The 7-year-old is doing her 400 m dash in a hot pink running skirt and matching shirt. The shirt says, “I’m Fairy Fast” on the front and “Eat My Dust” on the back.

For my 13.1 mile race, I’ll be running as Princess Jasmine. Hoop earrings and a head jewel sewed onto the teal headband were the items hardest to get used to running with. The rest is teal colored Nike running wear and a “gold” bracelet that tends to turn my wrist green (oops!).  

A Bit About How YOU Can Help: I hope our story is inspiring to you and that you’d like to help us save lives, too! The best place to learn about how you can join the movement to protect children around the world from easily preventable diseases is . Of course, everyone is welcome to donate to Shot@Life through our fundraising website at where you can see pictures of our costumes. It would be a dream to be able to say that we saved 100 kids lives by raising $2000. As of this time, we’re up to 80. Please help us get to 100! If I haven't convinced you, here are my girls to make the closing argument. Thank you!