I had been considering getting involved with a charity for a while. And, honestly, I made a lot of excuses not to get involved – too busy, not the right cause, not enough time, too complicated, nothing excited me, etc. Mostly what was missing was passion for a cause or organization. That was, until I met Chrissy Vasquez, IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis alum and Executive Director for Back on My Feet Indianapolis.
Kelley School of Business employs our advertising agency, Caldwell VanRiper, to help tell stories about the momentum a Kelley education can give your career. We recently produced a video series featuring graduates who are successfully building businesses from the ground up and leaders who are affecting culture within large companies. I’ve met some fascinating people through this assignment, including Chrissy. I was quickly inspired by her story after our initial phone interview. Her passion for Back on My Feet was immediately contagious. The organization empowers people experiencing homelessness to regain their independence through running and community. Over the course of filming and getting to know others within the organization, I kept thinking, “This is it. I’ve found my passion.”
I love running, which is still a weird thing for me to say. I had to work hard to find that love. Running for me started as a way to lose some weight and get a little healthier. I didn’t expect to get any return beyond that. I never imagined I would be training for (and completing) longer distance races. Setting goals is such a big part of training for any race. And since I’m not an elite level runner, beating my own best is the only goal. Through my own experience of going from hardly ever running to finishing my first half marathon, I really connected with the idea that people experiencing homelessness could change their lives by setting a goal and getting a little support. It wasn’t just some random idea to me. I knew how much running had changed me. And knew real change could happen within, if someone is given the tools and support to accomplish something they never thought was possible.
After the week we spent filming – and the more I got to know Chrissy and Back on My Feet, I knew that organization was the right fit for me. I started volunteering just a few weeks later. It’s incredible to know that this organization, led by Chrissy, is using running to help the homeless population build self-esteem, confidence and discipline as a way to establish self-sufficiency through obtaining housing and employment. What’s even more incredible is that through running, I’m doing something to help. I’ve met some of the most inspiring people who really are taking advantage of the program and changing their lives. It’s already been such a fulfilling experience for me. I just hope I’m giving as much as I’ve already gotten.
Eric Gray, Senior Art Director at the advertising agency Caldwell VanRiper, contributes to the blog this month with his story about Back on My Feet Indianapolis.