During the month of December, Buddy will highlight, the Twelve Days of Fearlessness. Whether it is getting up the nerve to lace up your old ice skates with your five-year-old or conquering a halfpipe like your teenage days, fearlessness is not just situational for all- for some, it is a way of life.
If you take a cross section of Buddy's team, you'll notice (among other things) a common thread between us. We all work towards bettering our community in our free time. We each dedicate our time and skills across different causes related to our own unique passions. But the commonality remains: giving back is important to us.
At this point, some of you are wondering to yourselves, "giving back is great and all, but how does this connect to fearlessness?" The spirit of giving back embodies fearlessness. We put ourselves out there, often beyond our previous scope for the betterment of our world. We take on responsibilities outside of our scope, we put in the hard manual labor, we take on uncertainty head on, and we don't even think twice about it. Why? Because it's not us at stake. It's the people we are here to serve that drive us.
Our love for our communities drives our fearlessness, and pushes us to new limits. Across our team, we stay involved: from simple causes like trail work, trash pickups, and serving on nonprofit boards, to more involved projects, like leading the charge for Richmond's Rapid Transit to better our city's public transportation network and starting brand new nonprofits from scratch. With that said, I'd like to highlight a few of our team's passion projects.
Founded in 2018, Clara Inspired seeks to eradicate genetic diseases through simple medical procedures. They support funding to advance medical breakthroughs in genetic medicine and raise awareness for genetic diseases. Casey and Kristen Baum were inspired to start the nonprofit, by their daughter, Clara, who was born with a rare mutation on here STXBP1 gene. The mutation results in lifelong physical and mental impairment.
Having personally met Clara, and seeing her amazing spirit and joy, I can't imagine anything but being completely inspired. As part of their fundraising and awareness efforts, Casey ran 100 miles, in the Rocky Mountains, in under 30 hours. Another prime example of how our communities drive our fearlessness (but it's not about us).
Read more about Casey's 100 mile journey here.
Armstrong High School is located in Richmond's East End, a historically black and impoverished neighborhood. Before joining Buddy, I worked there for four years doing student support services and community work, I have also had the great honor of coaching wrestling there for five seasons (currently on my 6th). Wrestling is a tough sport. It requires a lot of guts to get out there and leave it all on the mat. At the end of the match, the results lie squarely on the individuals, and I've learned that is often the toughest part for my young athletes. Dealing with losses can be devastating, especially when you've worked so hard at something. But, getting back up, learning the lessons, and working even harder is the underlying ethic that drives this sport.
I've been involved in inner-city wrestling pretty much my entire adult career. With my first job as a chemistry teacher in Memphis, TN, I found myself starting a wrestling team at our high school with a friend and colleague. At first, we had to jog to another high school for practice everyday (shout out to Kingsbury High for hooking us up). Once we got our own space, we practiced in a gutted out auditorium with no heat or electricity. But we made it work. We worked. And in our second year we had our first state qualifier.
Inner city sports come with unique challenges. We don't have the same resources* that wealthier schools do. We lack proper facilities. Our athletes often have very stressful and unique challenges. We push the barriers anyhow. Last year, out of a small team of seven, we had four state qualifiers, and two state placers. One of those state placers was also the Sportsbackers Scholar Athlete of the Year (he's got an amazing story, which you can read here). The other state placer was last year's Richmond Public Schools scholar athlete of the year and has gone on to wrestle at the Virginia Military Institute. We inspire fearlessness through our sport. We thrive on it. We learn that we take challenges head on and push towards bettering ourselves and bettering our community. That's what we're about.
Founded in 2019, RiseRVA's mission is "to inspire Richmond city's middle school students to engage in their community, excel in their education and exceed their expectations through the culture of rock climbing."
RiseRVA currently offers two main programs, Homeroom Rocks and Belay Fridays. Homeroom Rocks partners with classrooms from Martin Luther King Jr and Albert Hill middle schools. Students from both schools visit Triangle Rock gym weekly to learn climbing fundamentals and do team building exercises. Leaders from the community are also invited to climb with students to encourage civic engagement and expand connections.
Belay Fridays invite students back to Triangle Gym (transportation provided) to climb and continue developing their skills. Students are given after school snacks and climb for two hours.
David Vogeleer serves as their Technology Officer, and he's been able to wrangle the Buddy team into getting involved with Rise. Many of us are avid climbers (not me, I just dabble, I'm the wrestling guy, remember?). Our team quickly jumped on board when they needed volunteers for their opening event, helping manage logistics and belaying students.
This is merely a sample of what our small team gets involved with. Along with these, our team serves with the Capital Trail Foundation, RVA More, Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, VCU Entrepreneurship, Greater Richmond Transit Company, BridgeParkRVA, UnBoundRVA, and so many more. Community is important. Giving back is important. And through giving back, we can be even more fearless.
*Interested in supporting Richmond Public School athletics? Shoot me an email!