5 stories that will inspire you to challenge yourself

Come on, Canada! Get inspired by Best Health readers to challenge yourself to a goal’and fundraise for charity at the same time (whether $50 or $5,000, it’s all good)

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Alisha Grant, 32; Logan Lake, B.C.

Alisha Grant, 32; Logan Lake, B.C.

What I did: Organized a hockey tournament
The cause: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
What we raised: $11,371

Two years ago, my daughter Taylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Since then, I have done things I didn’t think I could, including creating an annual men’s hockey tournament to raise funds to find a cure for diabetes.
Before Taylor’s diagnosis, my family was already eating a healthy diet, and even more so now. I’m a full-time homemaker, and love it. We eat organic fruit and veggies, and love nuts and berries. We grow most of our meat on our ranch, and enjoy the occasional sweet treat. As a family, we try to do daily activities together, whether it’s a horseback ride, skating, sledding, walking, cycling or playing soccer. We love the outdoors; Taylor’s diagnosis hasn’t slowed us down or torn us apart. It has made us healthier and brought us closer together.

One evening I came up with the idea of a fundraiser here in Logan Lake. My husband, Mitch, and my parents and I spent months putting together the eight-team Battle Against Dia­betes ( “BAD”) Hockey Tournament. We organized a silent auction, and gathered volunteers for a 50/50 draw, beer gardens, timekeeping and refereeing.

Thanks to family, friends and the JDRF team in Kamloops, we raised $11,371. Our next tournament is scheduled for this November.

Parenting a child who has diabetes is the hardest job I’ve ever had. You are always watching for life-threatening signs; you always have to be “on.” I am now a mother with a cause that is intertwined with my heart, and I’ll never give up hope for better ways to manage, prevent and one day cure diabetes.

I’m happy to say Taylor is doing great, and is now using an insulin pump. She is a brave little girl with a passion for life who continually inspires others-myself included-to try harder and do better.

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Alexandra Lucchesi, 27; Toronto

Alexandra Lucchesi, 27; Toronto

What I did: Half-marathon
The cause: Sunnybrook Hospital
What I raised: Over $200


I chose the Scotiabank Half-Marathon because, as an avid runner and cyclist, I wanted to raise money for Sunnybrook Hospital after my father died in the summer of 2010. He had heart disease and was cared for at Sunnybrook. The cause is close to my heart.

This was my second half-marathon. To train, I researched what foods to eat and I used a running schedule. I plan on participating again this year.

3 / 5
Hilary Caldwell, 24; Hamilton, Ont.

Hilary Caldwell, 24; Hamilton, Ont.

What I did: 11K run
The cause: Canada World Youth
What I raised: $2,800


Soon after graduating from Dalhousie University with a degree in kinesiology, I volunteered for Canada World Youth’s Youth Leaders in Action exchange program. It would involve spending three months in a community in Canada followed by three months in Indonesia, alongside a group of Canadian youth and our Indonesian counterparts.

I had only a few weeks to fundraise the required $2,800, and because I am already a runner, I decided to sign up for the Alliston, Ont., Summer Solstice 11K run to help raise the funds for my trip. I solicited my friends and family to donate so that I could take part in the humanitarian program.

The experience was unforgettable. My Indonesian counterpart was a woman my own age named Wan, and we were each other’s guides to our respective countries. We lived with host families in Truro, N.S., and then in Sei Gohong on Borneo Island in Indonesia. We helped each other adapt to the new countries.

In Indonesian communities, I helped educate families about the importance of proper nutrition in pregnancy, hand-washing, and prevention of malaria and typhoid fever. At the clinics, I helped the nurses provide vaccines and weigh babies to track growth and development. I also went to schools to help students learn about hygiene. My Canada World Youth group painted a health clinic for mothers and babies, and fixed up the larger clinic so a nurse could provide care in the village.

My experience in this program was incredible, and I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends’ support.

4 / 5
Jean-Paul Hernandez, 38; Toronto

Jean-Paul Hernandez, 38; Toronto

What I did: Ran a 10K
The cause: SickKids Foundation
What we raised: $1,500


Over 30 years ago, SickKids Hospital saved my life after my appendix ruptured; they did emergency surgery. Last fall, I thanked them by running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as Batman to raise funds for SickKids. And in April, a group of us-The Justice League Runners-ran 10K and raised $1,500.

During the ’90s, when TV telethons were popular, I donated to children’s causes, but it felt impersonal. Then I came across a photo online of four window cleaners dressed as Batman, Superman, Spiderman and Captain America, washing windows at a children’s hospital in Pittsburgh. How that must have looked to the kids! The idea of super-heroes humbling themselves made me realize I had to train for my first marathon and run as Batman.

From a young age, I’ve loved superheroes, and to be running as Batman was overwhelming in every good way. To hear people cheering “Go, Batman, go!” summed up my training mantra, taken from Batman Begins: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” As the marathon got tougher, I thought not of my suffering (running in a rubber Batman mask isn’t that hard, but it’s not a walk in the park!) but that of the children at SickKids. Running 42.2K was nothing compared to what those brave and true superheroes endure. That thought was motivating.

Then I ran the Toronto Yonge Street 10K as part of The Justice League, which came together after we met through social media. All runners, we agreed to run as a team and not chase a personal best time. We hoped the sight of a group of superheroes would be an inspiring image for spectators and the other runners.

As a parent of a 21-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, I don’t want other parents to have to see their children suffer from illness. So if I can help, I will, for as long as my body allows. Our team’s goal is to inspire, and embodied within that is the belief that every person has the potential to be a force for good.

5 / 5

Chantal Richard, 37; Mississauga, Ont.

What I did: Ran a half-marathon
The cause: Look Good Feel Better
What we raised: $8,375

As that annoying runner who is always urging others to take it up, I jumped at the chance to register my colleagues for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. We work on cancer-support programs (Look Good Feel Better, and FacingCancer.ca) at the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA) Foundation. We are passionate about empowering women to face cancer feeling supported, hopeful and confident, so it wasn’t difficult to get colleagues and friends to participate in a fundraising run. I was so proud to watch my teammates run their first race and wanted to share it in Best Health, as a way to recognize them for their hard work.

I started running a couple of years ago in an effort to lose weight, and as runs got easier, I set my sights on a new challenge (yes, I have a bit of an all-or-nothing attitude…). So in February 2013, I skipped over those 5K and 10K milestones and signed up for a half-marathon. The feeling of accomplishment when I finished was one I was eager to share with anyone willing to put on sneakers.

Most on our team of 19 were new to running, and I was ridiculously proud watching them get bitten by the running bug. Most did 5K; a few of us did the half-marathon. Many personal bests were set (I had a personal best time of 2:06!). We’ll be participating again this year.