On Aug. 26, Gannon University began its Physical Activity Philanthropy Challenge.
Partnering with Hamot Health Foundation and Our West Bayfront, the Recreation and Wellness Center (RWC) looked for 200 people to participate in a six-week challenge.
For every million steps walked, the Hamot Health Foundation is donating $100.
All funds raised throughout the duration of the challenge will go toward Gannon- sponsored initiatives focused on food insecurity in young adults in the Erie community.
Food insecurity can be defined as an uncertain or limited ability to get adequate food due to lack of financial resources.
McKenna Haskins, a graduate assistant for the RWC, said that this is the second consecutive year Hamot has donated $100 for every million steps.
Last year, 103,571,869 steps were logged during the eight weeks of the challenge, which is equivalent to 51,786 miles and a total grant amount of $10,300 for various programs at Bayview Park.
Haskins said that for this year, they have already surpassed last year’s number of participants. The goal is to have 200 people between the Gannon community, Our West Bayfront and Hamot Health Foundation.
There were 206 people who were involved in the challenge in 2018: 106 from Gannon, 50 from Our West Bayfront and 50 from UPMC Hamot.
Over 320 people have registered this year, and Haskins said that although the deadline has passed, interested parties are still signing up for the challenge.
Haskins said she is thrilled that the challenge has grown in popularity.
Jaimee Black, vice president of operations at Hamot Health Foundation, said last year Mary Jean Taylor, Ph.D., director of university wellness, and Haskins approached Hamot about collaborating to promote healthy lifestyles for employees of UPMC Hamot, Gannon, Our West Bayfront and other downtown businesses through a fitness challenge.
“Not only was this a benefit to our employees, but funds would support health-related programming to Our West Bayfront, a neighborhood that we are invested in,” Black said.
Black said that Hamot is optimistic about the advantages participants will experience by doing the challenge.
“We’re hopeful that this challenge will have many benefits – from improving the health of employees during and after the challenge, providing assistance for food insecurity and promoting camaraderie amongst participants,” Black said.
Part of their mission is to promote healthy communities, and access to food is an essential element of this mission.
“We are happy to be a part of such an important initiative,” she said.
Faculty and staff from across campus are involved in the challenge, from Campus Ministry to the RWC and various departments in between.
One faculty member participating this year is the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, co-chair for the Center for Communication and the Arts.
Clerkin said this past spring, he participated in the “All In” health and nutrition employee group.
“I enjoyed the connections with colleagues as well as the degree of success with the health and wellness changes that I was able to incorporate into my daily routine,” Clerkin said.
“When the opportunity to participate in the physical activity philanthropy challenge came up, I thought it would be a great way to continue to make healthy choices.”
Clerkin also said that the challenge allows him to help a local nonprofit through our collective Gannon effort – “a terrific ‘win-win’ engagement!”
The total number of steps from the participants will be tallied each week to track the progress.
Participants will send in their data on Tuesday and once it is all calculated, Haskins said an email will be sent out to the Gannon community stating how many steps were reached in the past week and how much money will be donated by Hamot.
Jessica Dahlstrand, a police officer with Campus Police and Safety, heard about the challenge via email from the wellness department as well as Taylor.
Dahlstrand said she decided to get involved because she wants to be a part of raising $10,000 to help address food insecurity in young adults who live and learn in our downtown community.
“I’m also participating in the challenge because it encourages me to get in 10,000 steps a day, helps me to become more active and holds me accountable,” she said.
In the first five days of the challenge, Dahlstrand said she has already reached a total of 50,585 steps.
“My goal is to push myself to do a physical activity seven days a week,” she said.
“This is probably my third year doing this challenge and it always motivates me!”
Jennifer Allen Catellier Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Communication and the Arts, said she already counts her steps daily and saw this challenge as an opportunity to support a great cause.
“This provides even more motivation to reach my goal each day,” she said.
“I think it’s great that the Gannon community is able to participate in this challenge.”