Last night I wore sneakers with my cocktail dress. Well, ok, they weren’t actually “sneakers”- I put hot pink shoe laces in my stiletto booties and hoped I would fit in (I’m not super athletic).  This unique dress code was totally appropriate for an event celebrating the incredible mission of Back On My Feet– and organization that uses running to end homelessness right here in Philadelphia.  Why running, you ask?  Put simply, it’s a tangible way of showing someone that “yes– you can.”

The physical benefits of running are obvious, but the Back on My Feet organization also recognizes the mental and emotional benefits of running, and uses it as a springboard to help those experiencing homelessness completely transform the way they view themselves and ultimately, their lives.  Getting up at the crack-of-dark three mornings a week to run provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment.  Back on My Feet says this about the importance of running in achieving independence:

“Running offers many strong and powerful lessons for life. Running teaches us: to take things one step at a time; that you can’t cheat life – you have to run miles one through nine to get to 10; when facing an uphill challenge we can persevere or take the easy way and turn around. The lesson we love the most is that if we keep moving forward, we arrive some place different, we arrive stronger and often as better versions of ourselves.”

The Back on My Feet Bash was an incredible fundraising event with all the glitz and glam you’d expect (and a few surprises!)- from the red carpet, to selfies with “Wild Thing” Mitch Williams, to the photo booth with a full prop closet, to the pink beer, to the totally packed dance floor, to the live fundraiser- all hosted by the incredibly-entertaining-energizer-bunny-of-an-emcee Jennaphr Frederick of Good Day Philadelphia.  But for Executive Director Scott Crossin and the Back on My Feet members in attendance, it was a true celebration of the amazing men and women whose lives have been permanently and positively changed.   I was humbled beyond words as I hugged a member and congratulated her on committing to run her very first marathon.  She looked at me intently and said with such conviction, “I’ve quit everything in my life up until now.  I’m finishing this.”

I’ve never been homeless, but I can imagine the devastating hopelessness and the paralyzing insecurity of not knowing where I will sleep each night.  I’ve never experienced true hunger, but I can imagine the overwhelming fear of not knowing when or if I would be able to eat my next meal.  I can imagine the pain of being continually dismissed, of feeling worthless, and being constantly judged by strangers who have no idea who I am or what the circumstances were that landed me on the street.

Homelessness can happen to anyone.  Seriously.  It can even happen to you.  Did you know that a large percentage of the homeless are veterans, the elderly, and those who suddenly find themselves unable to pay their rent and electric due to a job loss?  The woman sitting on the stoop that you pass each morning on your way to get your espresso may have finally escaped an abusive relationship and has no where to go.  The man sleeping in the bus stop may be a Sergeant who was injured overseas and was unable to get a job because of his disability.

So why not make your fitness goals a bit more meaningful?  Whether you are a life long runner or don’t even own a pair of sneakers (guilty as charged) there is a way for you to support the inspiring work that the Back on My Feet organization is doing right here in Philadelphia.  For more information, upcoming events and to get involved, visit http://philadelphia.backonmyfeet.org. You can also connect via Twitter @BoMFPHILLY and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BomfPhilly.

Ready, set, RUN!


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