Running a 10-mile race is a tremendous challenge.
But if you’ve got the right motivation, those 10 miles can feel like nothing at all.
That’s the idea behind Team Believe, a grassroots organization that brings together local runners to help the Central New York community. The group, which got its start in 2009, asks participants to help raise money for local children’s charities while training for the Dunn Tire Mountain Goat Run in Syracuse in May.
“We are a charitable organization with a running problem,” said Team Believe Executive Director Laurie Davis. “We draw people in with a run, and they come back year after year for the camaraderie.”
Davis said the group got its start through random discussions six years ago.
“We were all raising money, but zero dollars of it were staying in our own community,” she said. “Our founder, Dave Bartell, wanted to raise money and help people locally. Running is a huge part of our community, so he wanted to incorporate the two. So we decided to pull together and see what we could do.”
A year later, Team Believe formed an executive board and set a goal to train for the Mountain Goat, raising money for the neonatal unit at Crouse Hospital.
Since then, the team has grown exponentially. It now features a roster of about 180 members and raises money for six local charities.
“We recruit through word of mouth,” Davis said. “We have 10 people on the board, and we tell them to invite five friends. We publicize through Fleet Feet. We’re the only recognized charity of the Mountain Goat, so we get prime space there. People see us and they ask what we’re all about. Friends invite friends to come back next year. It’s literally a grassroots organization.”
In order to participate, members are asked to fundraise or donate $125 (though larger donations are encouraged). In return, members receive a comprehensive team program designed to help runners complete the 10-mile Mountain Goat course (participants can also choose to do a 3K fun run/walk). The program includes training schedules for beginner, intermediate and advanced runners; weekly group runs; training clinics to learn how to improve your technique and prepare your body for race day; and group social activities. Also included are the race entry fee, a team racing shirt and a team tent and baggage check-in on race day. The team trains at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool beginning in late March or early April, as well as the hills in Thornden Park.
Team Believe also welcomes younger participants.
“We also have a kids’ team. They raise their own money and pick their own charity. We call it Kids for Kids,” Davis said. “We let them decide where to send the money. One year one of the kids had a penny jar at school for the other kids to drop their change into. They’ll do a bottle and can drive. Anything to raise money for the charity they pick.”
Davis said running offers people of all ages and fitness levels an opportunity to get in shape.
“Running is great,” Davis said. “It doesn’t require a lot of equipment. All you need are sneakers and socks. Everybody can do it. On our team, we have people who’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon, and we have people who’ve never run before joining and they’re running their first 10-miler.”
And Team Believe offers those athletes a little extra motivation — the opportunity to help children in the community. Every year, the group gives to six local charities:
The Crouse neonatal intensive care unit.
“We give yearly to the extension fund at the Crouse NICU,” Davis said. “We put money into that fund, which supplies parking and meal vouchers to parents who can’t otherwise afford to see their kids every day. If your baby is in the NICU for 21 days, and parking is $14 a day, that can add up.”
From the Ground Up, a therapeutic horse organization in Cazenovia for kids with developmental disabilities.
David’s Refuge in Manlius, a bed and breakfast for parents who care for children with special needs or life-threatening medical illnesses. The inn provides a respite for their families from the day-to-day hardships of providing that care.
Hope for the Bereaved.
“This year, the donation will help fund a program for children grieving the loss of a parent or sibling,” Davis said.
Enable. Donations from the group helped build the organization’s new playground.
CompassionNet, which allows seriously ill children to live as normally as possible, concentrating on alleviating their suffering and keeping them at home during the course of their disease. Case managers also provide families/guardians of these children access to resources that sustain effective coping and positive family dynamics.
“A lot of families can’t afford to keep their kids in their home environment,” Davis said. “This is a wonderful organization.”
In addition, this year, Team Believe is collecting donations for an organization that buys helmets for children who have sustained brain injuries. While they’re waiting for their insurance to come through, the organization pays to fit the kids with helmets.
Davis said all of the charities to which Team Believe donates focus on children in need.
“That is our mission,” she said. “When we look at a charity, it has to be one that helps kids — kids with special needs, developmental disabilities, kids who are gravely ill. That’s the focus of everything we do. We don’t just raise money and give it to random organizations. We have a passion for it, everyone on the board. That’s what keeps us coming back every year.”
It also helps motivate team members when they hit a wall during the Mountain Goat.
“We’re running for people who can’t run, for that parent that doesn’t have time because they’re taking care of a sick kid,” Davis said. “That’s our mission. That keeps us going.”
If you’d like to learn more about Team Believe, the organization will be holding two informational sessions this month and next.
“We’re going to have informational sessions at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Fleet Feet in DeWitt and March 3 at Fleet Feet in Clay,” David said. “It’s a one-hour meeting on how to sign up, you can meet with a running coach. You can meet every board member, our past members. We welcome questions about who we donate to and how to get involved.”
To learn more about Team Believe, visit teambeleivecny.org or Facebook.com/pages/TeamBelieve.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.