4 women who challenged themselves in the name of charity

Get inspired by these Best Health readers to take part in a fitness challenge for charity

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Taryn Lencoe, 28; North Vancouver

What I did: Solo 12-hour swim
The cause: Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
What I raised: $10,000 +

I have a cousin and some close friends who have multiple sclerosis. MS means that one morning you may not be able to walk when you wake up. Or that you may suddenly have impaired vision, or that your memory will fail you for no apparent reason. The symptoms of MS are many, and they vary for everyone. From 55,000 to 75,000 people in Canada have the disease.

To help the MS Society fund research, advocate for change and help people with the disease and their families, I decided to raise money by swimming around the buoys in the ocean off Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 16.

I used to swim competitively, but for this I trained for 15 months and I completed a goal-setting program to help break down my goals into small steps.

It was definitely tough, and the water was cold; I especially felt it during the last two hours. I had three 10-minute breaks when I could get some food and put on more sunscreen. To help me get through it I had a waterproof iPod with a 12-hour playlist I’d created, including pop, rock, oldies and even Disney songs!

I am hoping that the challenge I gave myself will inspire others to donate and learn about MS (the donation page is still open at swimms.squarespace.com). Just imagine a future without MS; I believe in it.

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Elise Manolakos, 27; Toronto

What I did: Great Wall Half-Marathon
The cause: Arthritis Society of Canada
What I raised: $8,000

I’m a certified personal trainer, and signed up for a half marathon to fundraise for The Arthritis Society after seeing a sign advertising the 2011 Great Wall Marathon in China. About 35 people from across Canada participated. Training for the run and sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience with others who were going through the same challenges to achieve a common goal brought us close as a team. To this day, we keep in touch.

To raise the $8,000, I applied persistence and a never-give-up attitude. I asked everyone in my various networks (work, family, friends, fitness club, etc.) to donate, and they were happy to help the cause. I also helped organize a personal development seminar hosted by Tim Cork, the author of Tapping the Iceberg: Achieve Straight A’s in Life Through Attitude, Aptitude, and Action. We charged $50 per ticket, and Tim donated proceeds from the sale of his CD and book.

I chose this cause because I treated different types of arthritis when I was a physiotherapy aide in a long-term care residence. Arthritis was a limiting factor in my patients’ activities of daily living. Every day I felt compassion for them. This challenge allowed me to “fight” against arthritis and support the future of our health care.

After completing my half-marathon on the Great Wall, I went on to do a full marathon that fall. I have many more running goals!

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Noelle Vialoux, 25; Winnipeg

What I did: Competed in a dragon-boat racing festival
The cause: CancerCare Manitoba and the Children’s Hospital Foundation 
What we raised: $4,200

When my brother was diagnosed with cancer at age four, it was a hard time for my family, but the Children’s Hospital Foundation was there to support us. My brother survived the cancer-he’s 27 now. To give back, I decided to compete in the FMG Manitoba Dragon Boat Festival with colleagues from my engineering firm.

For the race in September 2013 (my third), our team of 22 fundraised together through a “bud, spud and steak” night, a bake sale and a barbecue.

There were three practice races before the big event on the Red River at the Forks. We placed 26th out of more than 70 teams. Not bad for amateurs competing against a lot of pros! We came second for the Engineer’s Cup. It made for a great team-building exercise, and after the race we felt stronger and more confident.

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Kelly Drennan, 40; Toronto

What I did: 30 days of yoga
The cause: Big Brothers Big Sisters
What we raised nationally: $100,468

I chose to do the 30-day Grow Your Yoga challenge with Moksha Yoga in May because I believe in the power of yoga for mental health, and I love the cause: Big Brothers Big Sisters. The challenge was very intense. I had to do hot yoga daily for an entire month and find the time in my schedule to squeeze it in. But daily yoga forced me to unwind at a time of year that is very stressful for me with work.

Hot yoga is a great way to shed some pounds, but there is also a real sense of community at Moksha Yoga, particularly the neighbourhood studio I’m part of. (Moksha Yoga is a group of environmentally conscious yoga studios, with locations across Canada and the U.S.) The instructors and studio owners are really great at helping students take their practice off their mat and into their daily lives.

Every Moksha studio across Canada donated the proceeds from their karma classes to Big Brothers Big Sisters during the month-long challenge. There were more than 3,700 participants. I’m thrilled that I helped contribute to such a great cause.


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