Charity Briefs (Giving)

By Leah Fisher Nyfeler & Matt Salmi – December 3, 2012

26 Miles for 26 Charities

26 Miles for 26 Charities is the philanthropic program associated with the LiveStrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. Every spring, organizations submit an application. The board of directors for 26 Miles for 26 Charities selects 26 organizations out of the many submissions. Part of the criteria for selection is that the organizations must be nonprofit and have a presence in the Austin community.

Once the organizations have been selected, participating runners identify which charity they will be raising money for. In 2012, these charity runners raised $400,000 on behalf of a variety of organizations (to see the list of the 2013 26 Miles for 26 Charities, go to

“Every runner, every volunteer is out there because they love Austin, have family and friends they want to support, and want to give back to their community,” Ari Witkin, 26 Miles for 26 Charities’ managing director, said.

The training team, called Team 26.2, is led by program director and coach Ray Mechler, a veteran of 31 marathons and long-time nonprofit supporter. “Every Saturday, I am assisted by members of one the charities in 26 Miles for 26 Charities who serve as team leaders for that week,” Melcher explained. “They manage the logistics of getting up early and putting out water coolers for our long run that day. We always take time before we set off on our run to have the team leaders talk briefly about their organization and the services that they provide. These 26 charities are inspiring organizations and I want the members of Team 26 for 26 to use that inspiration to remind themselves of why they have taken on the challenge of training for and completing the LiveStrong Austin Marathon or Half Marathon. When the going gets tough it will help to answer the question, ‘What am I running for?’”

Although registration for the training program has closed, runners can still sign up to run the marathon in February as part of 26 Miles for 26 Charities. Each of the 26 nonprofits will host a water stop during the race, providing some 1,000 much-needed volunteers. If you’d like to work a water stop on behalf of one of these charities, go to to sign up.

Junior League Puts Food in Tummies

by Matt Salmi

Austin is generally considered a health and fitness stronghold with an abundance of farmers’ markets and good grocery stores. Nutrition is a lifestyle. However, the community within the Del Valle Independent School District has nutrition issues unshared by the surrounding region. Such nutritional deficiencies have been detrimental to attendance, behavior, and achievement of students.

To combat the nutritional mire, the Junior League of Austin (JLA) created Food in Tummies (FIT) in August of 2009 and now serves two elementary schools in the district, Baty and Hillcrest. Del Valley consists of 172 square miles in the southeast corner of Travis County, where 97 percent of children are on the free and reduced lunch program. However, this does not account for the weekends spent without even relatively healthy food. Poor nutrition leads to sickness. Ill or fatigued kids are absent or lack the necessary energy to remain engaged during the school day.

“We talk a lot about the educational needs in our community, and we talk about the problems in our schools, but sometimes we, as a community, fall short in making the connection between hunger and the educational outcomes of kids,” the JLA president, Cathy McHorse said.

In truth, Austin contains deep pockets of poverty. “People are surprised how close [Del Valle] is. These kids and their families are living and trying to work in the community. They’re not removed from us,” the Food in Tummies (FIT) program chair, Hadley Hempel said.

The JLA’s 250 first-year members will spend more than 6,000 hours operating FIT. Every week 1,500 backpacks of healthy food and nutrition tips are compiled and delivered to eager children at both schools. Baty is located a mere ten minutes from downtown toward the airport. Hillcrest is off William Cannon in a sparsely populated void. Not a single grocery store rests within Del Valle.

While the backpacks help the present situation, and attendance and performance at both Baty and Hillcrest has improved, the JLA knows the difficulty of its endeavor; FIT only reaches 1,500 of the 6,000 elementary students. “We’re trying to change long-term behavior and have the children make healthy choices and recognize how food choices connect to their health, their learning,” McHorse said.

Athletes for a Cure Offers Flexibility in the Fight

by Matt Salmi

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Although the disease remains uncommon before age 50, it can arise in a man’s 40s or even 30s. Generally experts agree that most elderly men have some trace of it. And truly, it can be deadly.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the world’s leading crusader in the battle to overcome this widespread malady. The foundation established the Athletes for a Cure program in order to generate awareness and raise money specifically among fitness-minded humanitarians.

The process is simple. Signing up is easily accomplished online. An athlete may select a race of his or her choosing—any race, anywhere. Once the $25 registration fee is paid, athletes are free to raise awareness and funds on their own.

Despite the high rate of occurrence among American men, prostate cancer is rare in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Men in Austin, a health-conscious city known for its dedication to fitness and nutritional knowledge, should understand the connection between diet and this unnecessarily common disease. Men who consume large amounts of fat (particularly the animal fat in red meat) are especially susceptible to prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation continues to find scientific breakthroughs such as a recent discovery by Dr. William Nelson at John Hopkins. Nelson identified a major carcinogen found in grilled meats which accumulates in the area of the prostate known to develop cancer.

Current research and treatment still lacks the grasp to handle advanced cases detected late. Prostate cancer is relatively slow growing, which renders it widely curable; however, early detection is difficult because the disease develops slowly, slipping by undetected before tumors reach problematic size. By that point, past the early stages, the cancer has spread to the bones, lymph nodes, or lungs a dangerous region often beyond the full grasp of currently available treatment.

All the money raised by Athletes for a Cure directly benefits the Prostate Cancer Foundation in its tireless pursuit of progress toward complete and total success. For information or to participate, visit

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