I’m very excited about the work I’m doing with a very special organization called Readers 2 Leaders. I just began serving on their board of directors and am excited about their mission and bringing my talents and resources to the table.
I first started working with Readers 2 Leaders in the summer of 2018. I volunteered to work at their summer camp in West Dallas, working to alleviate the “summer slide” that kids experience between school years. This is especially important with the kids that we serve because they are already behind in their reading level and the summer slide only puts them further behind.
Let me start this story from the start, though, because I think it’s a cool story! In 2015, I was at the Arnold Classic. We were Gold Sponsors of the event with our brands: destination, GASP, and Better Bodies. As part of this sponsorship, we got to attend a luncheon with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold is a lifelong hero of mine (like very true meathead!) and it was awesome to hear him speak about his “fitness crusade.” Arnold told stories about how weird weight training was when he began and how over the years, he has been an advocate for fitness and the changes he has seen. He also spoke about the work he was doing with after-school programs, telling us about how the time between when school lets out and when parents get home is a vulnerable time for kids and how a lot of the bad influences reach them. I was very inspired by this. When I got home, I started researching after-school programs in Dallas. I linked up with an organization called Dallas Afterschool. Also around this time, I read the book Spark by John Ratey and was inspired by the recent research connecting exercise to learning and brain development.
Working together with Dallas Afterschool, I arranged for our staff and personal trainers to host “Fitness Days” at some of the Dallas Afterschool locations where we would teach kids about the benefits of exercise and more importantly, give them a couple of hours of fun experiences exercising. These fitness days were so rewarding for the kids and maybe even more so for our staff!
Fast forward to January 2018 when I sold my equity in destination, GASP, and Better Bodies. I was ready for a change of direction. Immediately, though, I knew I was going to miss the fitness days very much. I contacted my friends at Dallas Afterschool and told them I no longer had a staff, but wanted to volunteer as an individual. They suggested a few organizations for me to check out and Readers 2 Leaders stood out to me. I love to read and I thought their mission was very logical and concise. To paraphrase, they basically said that if there is one single thing you can target to make the biggest difference in young people, it is literacy. The stats for adults that have literacy issues are very scary. If a child reads at a competent adult level, their chance for a positive and successful life is greatly enhanced. I thought this seemed like a very impactful way to make a difference, so I signed up for their summer camp.
One of the days I was there, I “checked-in” on Facebook. One of my long-time gym members wrote a comment to me thanking me for my help and letting me know he was on the board of directors! How cool! We ended up meeting up that summer and he told me about the organizational successes and challenges they were having. I told him that I was very interested in contributing to their cause and that I thought we could have an even greater impact on reading scores if we incorporated fitness in a strategic way. This connection between fitness and learning was exactly what I had been studying since reading the book Spark. He thought it was a great idea and arranged a meeting for me with the founder and executive director. The founder is an accomplished marathon runner and was very excited about the idea. Shortly after the meeting, I happily accepted a position on their board.
The work we have been doing since I joined the board has been fun and challenging. There’s also a ton of room for involvement for individuals looking to help. I’ll be organizing monthly Fitness Days that will require four to six volunteers per month. The organization is also in need of digital exposure; so my social media savvy friends, we need your help as well. Please message me if you’re interested in donating any of the following: time, money, or skills.