How to make sure your charity dollars are wisely invested

ALS got very lucky. One guy started an amazing movement that made it fun for people to donate to a charity, even if they had no idea what ALS actually was. As of August 25th the ice bucket challenge has raised almost $80MM.

As of Monday, August 25, The ALS Association has received $79.7 million in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 25). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.7 million new donors to The Association.

Yes, raising almost $80 MILLION is amazing but what’s even more staggering is they have garnered donations from 1.7 million new people. These people never knew about or had no desire to support the ALS Foundation until they could dump a bucket of ice water on their head. It may be wasting water but it’s a genius marketing tactic.

researchI love philanthropy and I am a huge supporter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and any non-profit that saves animals. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough buckets of ice water to support every charity in need of funding.

However, there are enough buckets to support charities that use their dollars wisely. I highly recommend doing the research to make sure the charity you choose to support is highly rated by a third party evaluation party like Charity Navigator or Guidestar. Do they give the majority of their fundraising dollars to research, drug development, program activities, or family support? Or do they push those dollars into advertising, marketing, paychecks or lobbying?

I’m not saying that a charity isn’t worthy. They are all ultimately helping a great cause but if there is a cause you strongly advocate for, push that charity to use its funding wisely. For example, the ALS Foundation self reports that only 28% of its funding goes toward research. CharityWatch gave the ALS Foundation a B+ rating, which isn’t too bad. However, it could be better. And I know there are many of you that will start discussing how their CEO’s get paid way too much. Every CEO gets paid way too much so, in my opinion, if the percentage of dollars going toward admin is much lower than the dollars going toward research and program development, it’s a start.

It’s full list of top-rated charities can be found here. If your charity of choice isn’t on that list, maybe it’s time to push them to use their dollars more wisely.

In case you were wondering, the CCFA is an A-rated charity and uses their dollars wisely. I can say that with confidence considering I take a lot of medications that were researched and funded by the CCFA (some right here in Colorado).

Big Gay 5K Race Recap

We donned our rainbows in support of our amazing gaybers and headed to Civic Center Park for the second annual Big Gay 5K race. The weather was turning hot at the start and we were hoping the sun would stay behind the clouds.

The race started out of Civic Center park headed east on 14th street which is, of course, right up a hill at the start. You then wind your way down 14th into Cheeseman Park where you make a quick u-ie and head back to the finish line. The first half of the race was okay; I didn’t start off fast and wasn’t expecting a great time. The second half of the race is all downhill which means I had a crazy negative split and ended up finishing with a personal best 5K time!

My new official 5K time is 34:11.

Our neighbors had a great time, as usual. We were incredibly happy to be there supporting them in all their awesomeness. Plus, I’ll run any race that allows me to wear this amazing rainbow wig!

 Brian and I before the race:

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My wig and all its glory, after racing 3 miles in the heat:

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Bass Lake Triathlon Race Recap

Bass Lake Triathlon has made it’s way onto my top races list. The course was beautiful but challenging. Everywhere you turned there was an amazing backdrop.

There is a LOT of stuff needed when traveling for a triathlon

There is a LOT of stuff needed when traveling for a triathlon

Transition opened the day before the race so all Team Challenge folks made their way to the little “town” of Bass Lake to set up our bikes and get in a practice swim. I just received my wet suit and my triathlon kit the day before so I was anxious to get in the water and see how they felt. The transition was set up by bib number which I appreciated since I only needed to remember the vicinity of my bike. After getting the bike racked we headed to the lake for a short swim just to test the waters.

The lake was beautiful! The entrance was murky but at 50 yards or so from shore the waters turned clear and calm. It was warm too, which I wasn’t expecting. The wetsuit fit perfectly and felt great during the swim. It wasn’t until I got out that I realized everyone around me was feeling the effects of altitude. Coming from Denver, I had dropped about 3000 feet in elevation which made the swim feel easy for me. Thankfully that feeling would carry over for the race too.

That night was the Team Challenge pasta party. There were only 50 or so participants, mostly from California and the race was very small with only 400 or so participants total. First off, the food was delicious! Probably the best food at any pasta party I’ve been to. The guest speaker was beyond inspirational. Her battle with IBD has left many scars, both physical and emotional, but she is a warrior! A true inspiration to all of us living with one of these diseases. Sometimes it’s really easy to throw your hands up in frustration or pure exhaustion, but my fellow patients are constant reminders of why we need to fight. I also made Top Fundraiser! Pretty excited  that I was able to make such a positive impact on our mission. ONE TEAM. ONE MISSION!

Bass Lake Top Fundraiser

The wake up call came early the next morning and we made our way to the transition. Everything was set up beautifully at my bike and I was lucky that my rack only had 4 bikes so there was plenty of room to make sure everything was where it needed to be. On the beach the buoys were set up but there was some confusion about which buoys we needed to follow for the sprint. I was the third wave so I figured there wouldn’t be an issues with following the pack. At the start of the swim I decided to take it easy and make sure I didn’t get kicked. I managed to find a nice spot with lots of room and maintained that to the first buoy. At the second turn I was still feeing great and passing people, to boot! It wasn’t until I got to the final turn that the men’s olympic competitors had caught up to me. That led to a few kicks and punches for the last 50 meters or so but I left the water feeling pretty good. T1 was all uphill and I took our coaches advice and walked T1 so I would still have legs at the start of the bike.

Having some fun at the end of the bike before entering T2

Having some fun at the end of the bike before entering T2

The bike started with a 15 feet window to make sure you were geared correctly because it was straight up hill out of the transition. People were getting off their bike to walk the hill so I took my time and rode the entire way. It then turned into a long downhill and so began the long rolling hills that would be my entire ride. I loved it! I was feeling great at the turnaround which led to the longest uphill of the course. I managed the ride almost the entire course at the middle or highest gear and got a great second wind when I realized I was passing people on the bike. During my first tri, the bike had been the toughest part for me so clearly all the training with the Team Challenge coaches paid off!

T2 was relatively easy and I was feeling pretty confident with the run. After all, that’s what this half marathoner does well, right? It was going great until I hit the first hill and realized this run was going to be a doozy! The hills, in contrast, were much more steep than the bike and my legs were starting to tire. I decided on a run/walk strategy that would keep me moving through to the finish.

I finished the course in 2:05 which is one minute behind my first triathlon. That folks is a HUGE success. This course was much more challenging that my first so I’m very proud of the progress I made. The coaching plan I had also worked wonders. I can’t wait to do it again!

Bass Lake Triathlon Finisher

Because we didn’t have a triathlon team in Denver, I was part of the national team. It was a different experience than other events I’ve had in the past but still so much fun. I was there with two other amazing ladies from New York and I’m so thrilled that I got to know them. They each have such an amazing story and I hope to see them at future events! I also had a national coach who I couldn’t appreciate more. This man gives his all for a lot of events and I’m incredibly thankful he was dedicated to us as well. I loved seeing his smiling face on the course, along with the rest of the coaches. I’m sure our paths will cross again in the very near future.

Bass Lake National Team

Colfax Marathon Relay Team

Last year when Brian raced a leg for the Colfax Marathon relay, I knew I had to run this year. At our company Christmas party I found 2 poor drunk suckers and convinced them that running a leg of a marathon in five months would be brilliant. I’m sure those folks were hoping I would forget but I was dead set on running this year. Lucky for me, those folks were awesome and kept their drunken agreements.

Colfax MarathonSo on Sunday, bright and early, Nick kicked us off for what would be an awesome event. It started, however, with me at City Park in Denver at 6am to cheer for Brian at the start of his third half marathon.  As I saw him off, I realized how proud I was of him to stick through and start this race. He hates running so this is a huge feat for him. I then made the trek across the golf course back to my car to head to my transition area.

The morning started with HORRIBLE stomach pain. I had incredibly painful stomach cramps that seared through my gut about every five minutes. I decided to try a banana and ended up eating about half before I couldn’t stomach anymore. I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to make the full six miles without having an accident. After all, I barely made it to the port-o-pottie at the transition area. Before I stepped into my transition gate, I had already pooped four times. It wasn’t going to be a fun event after all.

I sat at my transition area and waited for the text messages to come through. Handoff number one went off without a hitch. So did the next three. I had made estimates based on our times and each text message came in right on queue. Every member of this team killed it!

And then, right on queue, I see Alyson making her way to me in her bright summer gear. I grabbed the baton and was off. The first part of my leg was through Sports Authority Field. I got to run through the tunnel and pop out on the field where the Broncos play. First, I hate the Broncos. Second, despite my hatred of that team, this was really awesome. The view from the field is such a different perspective. The only thing that could have made it better was the Rocky theme song blaring through the stadium speakers. (Hint hint race coordinators)

Colfax FinishersI emerged through the other end of the stadium to run along Platte River trail before making my way onto Lawrence and 17th street. By this time, the heat index and sun were creeping a little high. Half of the water went in and half went down my neck and back to cool off. The run up 17th wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be considering the hill. I did walk up the big hill on 17th and used that opportunity to eat Shock Bloks and grab a drink. I’ve been running for a few years now and I still haven’t mastered the ability to drink and run at the same time…without choking.

Down 17th was completely open to the elements. People holding signs and cheering us on helped me to forget that there was no shade and the temps were nearing 80. I thanked all the officers handling traffic control and made sure to smile. That smile helps to trick the body into thinking you’re doing something fun! I made the final few turns into City Park and felt the excitement building as I neared the finish. My goal was to run 12:00 miles (I’m a turtle, I know!) and have the team finish around 11:15. I was so happy to see Brian cheering for me at the finish and then hear my friend’s chanting my name. It gave me the burst at the end that I needed.

I finished just under 12:00 mile pace and the final team time was 5:06:28 and we averaged an 11:41 per mile pace. I beat my goal and we exceeded our team goal. Good thing the Crohnie poops weren’t an omen! It turned out to be a beautiful day and a great race.

We finished with a few beers and great conversation before getting a ride back to our car. A nice cold shower. Some foam rolling. A huge juicy burger with sweet potato fries. And then yard work…because the joys of home ownership never cease.

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