Thursday, July 18, 2013

Making a Difference

I'm generally not one to hero worship. There are people that I respect and trust in my life. There are people I know personally and from afar that I admire. But I never identified anyone as a 'hero'. Today it occurred to me that if asked "Who would you like to spend a day with and why" my answer would be Anne Mahlum.

Anne founded "Back on My Feet" (BoMF)in Philadelphia in 2007. My initial attraction to Back on My Feet was it's mission - to use running to help those experiencing homelessness build their self esteem and self sufficiency so they can become employed again and move on with their lives. If you are a runner - or a regular walker or exerciser - you know the effect consistent application of these activities can have on your psyche. Before long you start to feel better (even when you don't realize you needed to) about a lot of things and can see the world a lot more clearly and positively.

The simplicity of the BoMF concept blew me away from the first time I heard about it. I was initially proud that it started in our city. But it didn't start by itself. BoMF was Anne Mahlum's vision. She's since been recognized by multiple groups including CNN Heroes and ABC News Person of the Week. Awards don't really impress me though.

I have volunteered at the BoMF 20 in 24 race since 2010. Tomorrow night I will be at a water station with my friend Tootsie from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. as hundreds - probably thousands- of folks run loops around the Schuylkill River to raise money for Back on My Feet. As an aside - a significant one - we are winding down from a week long heat wave in Philly. This is frequently the case on BoMF race weekend. Yet there will be a TON of people down by the river supporting this cause. Let me just say I love the fitness community and our fair city.

Now back to my post ......Two years ago, my duties at the race put me in a spot right near Lloyd Hall which is command central for the race. They were a little short on help and I bounced around a few spots trying to help out. And who was bouncing around right there as well? Anne Mahlum. Right in the thick of it, putting out mini fires on a cell phone or walkie-talkie while digging deep into barrels of melted ice fishing out water bottles for runners; checking on an injured runner and generally doing whatever needed to be done. She worked just as hard as anybody out on that course. By 2011, BoMF and the race were well established enough that she could have easily sat back as founder and CEO and let others do the grunt work. THAT impressed me.

Today in my email I learned that Anne Mahlum has decided to step aside as CEO of BoMF. She is letting go of her 'baby' and letting others "bring stability and balance" (her words) to the organization. Letting go is a hard thing to do. And after I read her letter announcing the decision I realized I admired her even more for being able to make the hard decisions.

The subtext to my blog is "My goal in life is to finish and have fun and to try to make a difference while I'm at it." I admire Anne Mahlum and consider her a personal hero because she is doing just that. And she isn't finished. I doubt the world has heard the last of her.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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