The world’s a pretty big place. There’s a lot of bad out there too - a lot of poverty, a lot of illness, a lot of homelessness, and a lot of inequality. And I’m just one person. One 20-something who works a 9 to 5 in an office with just 7 others. I don’t lead a powerful or overly exciting life. A big day for me is when I remember to floss or when I find a $5 bill in an old jacket pocket. What can little ‘ol me really do to make a change in the world?
Opportunity to make a difference came knocking when AfterShokz sponsored the United Relay. Our mission: to keep runners and cyclists safe as they journey across the country while raising funds for charities around the globe. Charities that are fixing the “bad” out there. Feeding those in poverty, treating those with illness, finding homes for orphans and fighting hard for equality. AfterShokz’ plan of attack for this event was to fund the logistical end of things, to assist in the runner and cyclist recruiting process, and spread the word on the importance of awareness and safety outdoors, and how our brand aligns. The more we recruit, the bigger our exposure, and the more dollars would be put into the causes. Being part of a company involved with such a great cause is amazing, but I wanted to get further involved. I decided to step off the sidelines and sign up for a leg to run.
Our team busted their butts for months getting the message out there, and we trained on the side so we could say we made history by participating in the first ever 3-route coast-to-coast relay across America. And that day finally came.
I ran a 6.5 mile stage in Seattle with my coworker Kim and our new friend Richard; 1 of 3 amazing support crew members for the Red Route of the United Relay. I’d never run outside at night before, and our trail wasn’t lit. We had headlamps to light our path, and we wore Trekz Titanium to keep our ears open while we listened to our playlists to get us through the long miles. Yes, it’s my job as an AfterShokz employee to shout from the mountains about how great our headphones are, but they really did rock this run. I heard everything with them on, from rustling in the grass (not sure what it was - don’t wanna know!), to coughs under the creepy pitch-black bridge, to the motivational tracks my family and friends put together in a playlist to keep my feet moving. Our friend Richard had already run 5K in the United Relay kickoff event, but offered to join us for 10K more so we felt safe on the trails (nicest guy EVER!). And when things got tough, I thought of Arms Around the Child, the charity I was running for, and the small change my miles might be making to a kid somewhere out there.
You don’t know how much of an impact a single person can make until you’re face to face with someone who’s being directly affected - hearing their stories, and accepting their thanks. The event in Seattle kicked off with a 5K and I got the chance to meet some of the enthusiastic runners that showed up eager to be there and share their reasons for joining. One woman approached me just to say how much she appreciated the opportunity to run for the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her son was recently hospitalized there, and his hospital-room neighbor was flown in from Alaska for treatment because they didn’t have the resources available to care for him locally. She explained how lucky her family was to have such exceptional care available around the corner, and that she was running for those who helped them when they needed it most. I realized in that moment that every person taking on this challenge was doing it for a reason aside from the exercise - we’re all tied into these causes in some way, and these charities really do appreciate it.
I ran to raise funds for Arms Around the Child, a charity who finds loving homes for orphans living in adversity all over the world. I’ve participated in a lot of fundraisers in my day, but this event and this cause really struck a chord with me. I was brought up in (probably) the most amazing family ever, and it breaks my heart imagining children being abandoned by their families because of war and disease - children who’ve been sexually abused and faced devastating circumstances that no child (or person!) should ever face. This charity provides homes for these children including access to education, nutrition and medical care. I shared my fundraising profile on my personal Facebook page, and in came the donations! “It’s making a difference somewhere out there. This money surely isn’t going into a dark hole” I told myself. Then I got an email from Arms Around the Child.
“Hi Caleigh, here's a little thank you from the kids at our home "Faith" in Jaipur India to help you on your fundraising journey. One of the kids took the pic.” - Ellie Milner, Global Director Arms Around the Child
And there I had it - tangible proof that my efforts literally reached these children. It made those miles worth it, those dollars from my friends and family worth it. Talk about motivation!
We all want to be world changers. That’s the dream, right? But life gets in the way - we all have an excuse. I’m just a 20-something who works a 9 to 5 with just 7 others who doesn’t live a powerful or exciting life. But my single Facebook post made a difference in these children’s lives. If you choose to not make a difference, well, you won’t. You may not be changing millions, thousands, or hundreds of lives. You may just be changing one - but isn’t that enough? I think so.