This month will be all about highlighting charities, and the people making a difference out there in the real world for causes that are near to their hearts. To kick this off, I am honored to have spoken with JJ Hendershot, a mother, Equinox Group Fitness Manager, and the driving force behind a number of charities including Cycle for Survival. Cycle for Survival is a nationwide fundraising effort for rare cancer research, raising over $55 million since its inception in 2007, and raising nearly $19 million nationwide. This is research that desperately needs to be done, and for a cause that has directly affected my own family life. Hendershot is an inspiration to charitable women, and all women looking to make a difference…
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME INVOLVED WITH CYCLE FOR SURVIVAL?
I first became involved in Cycle for Survival in 2009. Three Equinox members came to me within a month to ask for my support. They had all been recently diagnosed with different types of cancers. Equinox COO Scott Rosen told me all about Cycle for Survival (an East Coast event at the time). I formed a group of local committed members with the nickname PerseVerance to honor everyone fighting. Although we had a small fundraiser at our local Equinox, it was not remotely on the scale of a true Cycle for Survival until 2012 when we had our first official Southern California ride. I have been committed to the national movement to beat rare cancers ever since, and in 2015 PerseVerance had a large team riding at the Cycle for Survival events.
WHAT ARE WAYS FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO GET INVOLVED?
The most fulfilling and impactful decision you can make is to become a team captain for Cycle for Survival. Captains rally friends and family to ride on event day and raise money together, as a team, for cancer research. If you aren’t the “coordinating” type, you can join a team, which is also an incredible way to get involved. Participants don’t need ANY cycling experience. People can also donate to a friend or team. 100% of every donation goes directly to rare cancer research led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) within 6 months of the events! Supporters are welcome to an event — bring your fun self to dance, sing, and take in the energy of good people making a difference in the world.
WHAT MAKES CYCLE FOR SURVIVAL UNIQUE TO OTHER FUNDRAISING EFFORTS?
Every single penny of every single dollar raised goes to this urgent cause. Cycle for Survival is part of MSK, and has tremendous support from Equinox, the founding partner, and other generous sponsors. That enables Cycle for Survival to give all of the donations directly to clinical trials and research studies to help cancer patients everywhere.
Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer – this cause is real to every single one of us. Regardless of how clean you live, how great your genetics are, or if you have the perfect diet, we are all impacted by this disease. We don’t choose cancer, it chooses us. But we do have a choice in how we respond. Our responsibility to humanity is to protect each other. We need to find a better treatment option and a cure now. Cycle for Survival is the most empowering way to fight back against cancer because participants and donors can make a powerful and immediate impact. The annual indoor cycling events are a celebration of life, hope, progress, and our collective determination.
We have a duty to donate our time, funds, and services to those in need. Cycle for Survival is a way to take action. Participants are physically moving, releasing endorphins, riding in solidarity in a community, supporting mankind, AND also rocking out! Laughing, shouting, cheering, and singing on the bike — doing the cabbage patch, running man, and every other dance move when not riding the bike. If you participate, I promise you will feel more alive and inspired than you ever have in your life. It’s an unbelievable do-good, feel-good energy.
WE ARE A FASHION AND LIFESTYLE BLOG, SO WE HAVE TO ASK: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE FITNESS CLOTHING BRANDS?
The to and fro look is my savior. Throwing on leggings with a great pair of boots, a scarf and an off the shoulder sweatshirt. You could be ready for a Pilates class or a kettlebell session in less than 60 seconds, or show up for dinner and drinks and be perfectly dressed. I am obviously a huge fan of VIMMIA because that is what they are all about. I am also obsessed with truly functional fashion. Brands like New Balance who make clothing and shoes that work for you – I need to know that my shoes have purpose – they aren’t just a great color or a new style. New Balance is also an incredible supporter of Cycle for Survival as the official apparel sponsor for 2015.
WHO DO YOU BALANCE YOUR ROLE AS A MOTHER AND FITNESS INSTRUCTOR WITH YOUR PHILANTHROPY WORK?
The balancing act of work, philanthropy, instructing, and mother/wife is a hard one. But I have found that if we are all involved in everything we all do, it becomes just a little bit easier. My husband and son come to the events I coordinate, my son runs with me some mornings, my husband is my weekend warrior workout partner, and we all discuss how important my philanthropy job is to the family. My whole family gives the precious time they would spend with me to these causes so that I can raise money and awareness for things like rare cancer research. There is no guilt, and for that I am incredibly appreciative.
WHAT IS THR BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE LOOKING TO ADD VOLUNTEERING INTO THEIR DAILY SCHEDULE?
I think the first part of adopting a cause, is finding one that truly speaks to you. If you are passionate about what you are devoting yourself to, you will find time and resources and will be effective at making a positive change. You don’t need to make your charitable commitments a full time job or a huge drain. That’s why Cycle for Survival is so special — it’s really easy to get involved in a life-changing movement. Everyone has a little time, connections, talents, and resources to make a difference. The word Philanthropy means “love of people” – and sometimes your love is the most effective, long lasting resource you can give.