Fitness Articles

Charity Races Mix Fitness and Fundraising

A Win-Win Scenario: Get Fit and Help Others!

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Donkey basketball. A classic example of two words you’d never include in the same sentence let alone next to each other. Yet some of you may have heard of it nonetheless. Donkey basketball was an annual event that took place in my small southern town when I was a kid: Real life donkeys in the high school gym, mounted by people and playing basketball for an audience. The whole point of donkey basketball was to raise money for a good cause. What can I say? We’ve come a long way since then!

Fitness-themed fundraising events continue today, but thankfully donkey basketball is a thing of the past (I hope!). Today, many charity groups hold specific fitness events with the goal of recruiting participants to help raise money and awareness for their cause. In return, the charity often provides participants with the tools they need to achieve their goals. Chances are that right now there are some charity events in your community.  You may have even walked, ran or biked in one! People participate in these events for a host of reasons, whether they want to contribute to a good cause, get some exercise, or wear their race T-shirt with pride.

I have had personal experience with charity races on three different occasions. My first was at the Country Music Half Marathon, which benefited a local group called Team ASK (Athletes for Special Kids). The second was the Tour de Cure bike ride for the American Diabetes Association. And most recently, I fulfilled my dream of running in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. There are many others out there including the well-known Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team In Training program, which offers various events all over the country. (If you have ever seen a lot of people in purple tank tops during televised marathons or races, those are the folks!) And this year's Marine Corps Marathon has are over 70 participating charity groups from which participants can choose from.

So how exactly do you get involved in a charity race? It works like this.
  1. A charity group identifies an event, such as a half or full marathon, 5K or 10K run/walk, bike tour, or triathlon.
  2. The charity then recruits participants who agree to raise money for the charity and personally participate in the race itself.
  3. Participants typically pay a race entry fee (which can range from $10 to $40 on average). This money usually goes directly to the charity group, but also reserves a participant's spot in the race.
  4. In the months or weeks leading up to the event, participants are asked to raise funds, and are often encouraged to meet a minimum fundraising goal, as set by the charity. Participants will ask their friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers to donate money to the cause on their behalf.
  5. In turn, the charitable organization often provides support, coaching, encouragement, and training to help participants reach not only their fundraising goals, but also the level of fitness necessary to participate in the race.
Overall, a charity race is a great way to raise money and awareness for a good cause while staying motivated and encouraged to stick with a fitness program. Here are the top 4 reasons you should consider running, walking or biking for charity yourself:
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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

    This event will collect more money from the participants,if they would announce about their race to increase the fund and thus this charity http://cheapcusto will help the needed person.
    - 10/29/2015 11:43:26 AM
  • I've been running for a little over a year now after joining Team Muscle Makers😃. I completed my first half marathon at Disneyland in August of last year, and then my second just 2.5 months later! We are now just over 7 weeks out from the Tinkerbell Half Marathon and I couldn't be more excited! Shooting for a PR plus I get to hang out for a weekend with my awesome teammates and raise money for a great cause! - 3/29/2015 8:34:47 PM
  • I do Breast Cancer walks with groups of friends. - 4/23/2014 6:53:26 AM
  • I do a few of these walks a year.
    And would you believe my town's high school still has DONKEY Basketball?! Not a thing of the past here! - 1/30/2014 2:36:13 PM
  • I just walk to exercise. I don't go for anything else. Just stay health. - 9/16/2013 8:31:56 PM
  • On New Year’s Eve 2011/2012, I got engaged to my boyfriend of seven years. Soon after we began planning for an October wedding. While I should have been excited, I was sort of withdrawn and sad about my wedding. You see, I had lost my father to a very rare form of Lymphoma in 2003. The thought of him not being at my wedding was depressing.

    I thought long and hard about a way to honor him during this special time in my life. My future sister in law had completed an event with Team in Training in the fall of 2011. I went to an informational meeting and immediately signed up for an event. Me, a lazy couch potato decided it was a great idea to run/walk a half marathon. On April 29, 2012 I completed my first half marathon. It was an amazing and rewarding feeling!

    This year I am signed up for two more events with TNT. I will participate in a 10K on April 14th followed by another half marathon on April 28. TNT has become near and dear to me. Go Team!
    - 3/5/2013 9:34:10 AM
  • Last year, my son, my mom, and I did the 5k for Autism. We didn't train. We all finished the race (we walked the entire way) next to last.My son wanted to give up twice, but I kept reminding him of his friends with autism. He was running for them and I was running for him. It was really tough to walk past Krispy Kreme - TWICE. We all got a free doughnut after the race. My son wanted to run across the finish line, and even though I had no energy left, I was there because of my son and he and I ran across the finish line with big old grins!
    This year, we're Team Casper. We're training. And we will run across the finish line again. - 7/5/2012 9:27:42 AM
  • I remember once when I was little, watching my dad play donkey basketball! The donkey my dad was put on wouldn't move!!! Guess it didn't want to play! Lol!! I think the next one he was put on kept trying to buck him off!! :) - 1/31/2012 3:39:50 PM
  • I started running just because I got bored with walking. I did my first charity 5K for the local humane society. I enjoyed it, but what keeps me coming back to these events is helping others. My daughter just raised over $500 for her charity with her last half-marathon.

    There's so much exercise you can do for yourself, and that's great, but running allows you to do good for yourself and others at the same time, and I plan to keep on running for a long time because of that. - 11/6/2011 3:15:20 PM
  • MAGGIE101857
    First, let me say that I laughed so hard when I read the first sentence -- donkey basketball. This - was an annual event in my hometown with the police department vs.the teachers! It was so much fun to watch!!!

    I have run two 5K's this year, both for charity. I'm a fairly new runner, and these were both a challenge and they left me with feeling that not only did I accomplish my own goals, but I helped others in the process. Kudos to everyone who has taken part or plans to in the coming year!!! - 11/6/2011 1:51:27 PM
  • I'm running my first Race for the Cure in many a year. Thanks to Spark People. The race is this Sat, and I know I will be part of something that is larger than my self. That feeling alone is worth more than money can buy. - 10/11/2011 9:59:36 AM
  • I have my first 5k race ever on Thursday- & it's described as one of the most challenging trail races in New England- oh god! I just had to sign up for it though cause the proceeds go to a mental health facility in my community! - 6/21/2010 3:48:06 PM
  • Go Team in Training! I did my first half marathon with them, and as soon as I crossed the finish line I declared myself 'addicted' to races. But I would never do another one without TNT. Words cannot even describe how inspiring it is, I ran the whole 13.1 miles beaming with a smile because of TNT! - 11/17/2009 7:09:04 PM
    I did a 5k walk for breast cancer yesterday with friends for work. Woohoo! - 10/25/2009 10:35:25 AM
  • In 2007 I participated in the Breast Cancer 3Day 60 mile walk. It was the hardest thing I have ever done physically and emotionally but the wins were great. I walked with a team of ladies I work with and to this day we are all very very close. We trained together, fundraised together, laughed together, cried together and camped next to each other the whole weekend together.

    When it comes down to's the training, the equipment and committment to do any one of these Fundraiser. My defining moment was in mile 55 and I almost threw in the towel until I saw someone walking who should have not been, I managed to push through my "self-pity" and complete the walk.

    So to anyone who is training for an event, you have my support, anyone thinking of doing advise is go for it...and to all who have supported anyone
    ank you!!! - 3/31/2009 2:49:10 PM

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