*Pictured above: Team HOPE 2015 runners — Nicole, Wendy, Heather, & David.

On Sunday, October 16, 2016 hundreds of feet will, once again, hit the pavement in support of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). This multi-distance race in support of a variety of charities — including the Children’s Aid Foundation’s Team HOPE — will bring together runners and walkers from all backgrounds to raise funds for Canada’s most vulnerable kids, amongst other causes.

In preparation of the big day, the Children’s Aid Foundation spoke with an avid Team HOPE participant — a runner who not only supports vulnerable kids each October, but year-round through her role as a Foundation staff member.

Check out our interview with Wendy.

CAFDN: When did you first become interested in joining Team HOPE?

WENDY: The first year I ran was the year after I started working at the Foundation.  A colleague asked staff to get involved, and said that participating in the run and fundraising would be the most useful way we could contribute. I’d never participated in an organized run before, so it was good motivation for me to try something I’d never done. My first experience was great; for the 5k distance, the atmosphere is really fun and celebratory. There are so many teams participating and supporting causes they’re passionate about, so the energy was very positive. I’ve participated every year since then.

CAFDN: What sort of running experience did you have before your first STWM run?

WENDY: I always hated running when I was younger.  I had to participate in the Canada Fitness Test several times while I was in primary school, and distance running was consistently my worst event. Somehow, I came to believe that it was something I wasn’t capable of doing and, like so many things you internalize in childhood, that really stuck with me. Then, about 13 years ago, I was working overseas and my options for exercising were really limited for a number of reasons. A colleague was a serious runner and suggested I give it another try – she just said to run as far as I could (which wasn’t very far in the beginning!) and then to try to go a bit farther every day. After a few months I’d really improved, and then running became one of my regular activities when I moved back to Canada.

I hadn’t always run consistently since that time, but for the past four years since my first time participating in the STWM with Team HOPE, I’ve gotten more interested in learning about running and trying to challenge myself. I don’t know that I’ll ever try a really long distance, but this year I participated in a couple of 10K runs in the spring, and I definitely enjoyed both. I guess the prospect of supporting a cause I believe in was what I needed to overcome the mental hurdle of having felt like the awkward kid who was bad at sports.

CAFDN: How do you prepare for the run?

WENDY: I don’t have a very sophisticated training regimen. Running is one of a couple of different activities that I use to stay active, and yoga is another main one. I have a standard outdoor route along a trail near my house, and I’ll vary that a bit if I want to do a longer distance. My favourite times to run are during the Spring and Fall, so I’m much more committed during those times. A couple of years ago a colleague suggested a running app, which helps motivate me, and I like to listen to storytelling podcasts (my favourite is “The Moth”) while I run – it makes the time go by much more quickly!

In terms of the awareness and fundraising side, I try to make my fundraising page personal and mention something meaningful about the Foundation’s work.  I send out a message to a certain group to ask for support, and of course I welcome people to participate in the event themselves. People close to me know that I love my job and feel very strongly about the cause, and I am very fortunate to have some committed supporters.

CAFDN: What’s the best part of participating in Team HOPE?

WENDY: It goes without saying that it’s fun to have a group of coworkers, friends and family participate, but the most meaningful part for me is how the funds are used.  Everything the Foundation’s staff team raises through this event goes towards the areas of greatest need.  My role at the Foundation involves granting out the funds we raise, and I know there are a lot of really important initiatives that it can be hard to raise money for.  Having this type of unrestricted money to grant means that we can be more flexible and better able to address priority needs as they emerge.  I guess that’s my way of saying that being part of Team HOPE helps me and the Foundation do better work.

CAFDN: What advice do you have for first time STWM participants?

WENDY: Have fun and participate in the way that’s right for you – run or walk with a friend or family member, or find a Team HOPE group. If you don’t have health or physical limitations, then this distance is very manageable. Also, use the opportunity to raise awareness about the Children’s Aid Foundation. It can be difficult to ask people for their attention and money when there are so many other causes out there, but I think people are much more open to this if they see you have a genuine connection to the issues. It doesn’t hurt to ask! I knew I’d have some people that would support me, but every year I’ve been really touched by how generous people were.

Interested in supporting Team HOPE? Click here.

About The Author

The Children's Aid Foundation of Canada funds programs to help Canada's most vulnerable children and youth, those who have experienced or are at risk of abuse and neglect, overcome the obstacles in life that prevent them from reaching their full potential. We are committed to giving ongoing support to those who need it most.

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