24 Hour Fitness Raises More Than $450,000 for Special Olympics

On June 9, at the San Ramon Sporting Club (California), 24 Hour Fitness hosted its third annual Fitness Challenge. Designed to raise money for Special Olympics, the Fitness Challenge tested participants' abilities in five events measuring cardiovascular endurance, agility, upper/lower body strength and 24 Hour Fitness trivia knowledge.

The result: $450,000.

“Part of our vision as a company is to make fitness available to everyone, and [the Fitness Challenge] matches nicely with what we are trying to accomplish,” notes Linell Killus, senior vice president of marketing for 24 Hour Fitness (Pleasanton, Calif.). “It's a really nice fit in terms of having the athletic connection and being able to help continue to change these special Olympians' lives.”

The Fitness Challenge was designed to allow anyone 18 years and older to compete against others in the same age/gender group in five events: standard broad jump, bench press, obstacle course, cardio conditioning test and trivia test. Every 24 Hour Fitness club had a chance to prepare its members for the regional finals that took place on May 21. Many clubs put together a challenge class where their members could train for the events, and all facilities encouraged their members to bone up on 24 Hour Fitness trivia at the chain's Web site.

Out of 16,000 participants, the regional finals narrowed the field down to 96, who went head-to-head at the San Ramon Sporting Club to find the best of the best. But the Fitness Challenge wasn't just about competition. “We had a kids' fair that included carnival games and booths — sponsored by Bay area businesses — and a custom motorcycle show…,” details Killus. All of the proceeds went to the Special Olympics.

In addition, during the whole challenge — which started in March — many 24 Hour Fitness clubs found additional, fun ways to raise even more money. For example, Rob Strum, a cycling instructor for 24 Hour Fitness, broke two world records for stationary bike riding — cycling 548 miles in a 45-hour ride. Along with making history, he netted an extra $2,000 for the cause. And in another bike-a-thon, Marty Stein, regional vice president, helped raise $30,000 by biking for 24 hours. “What was fun here is that Tony Dorset joined Marty for the last 45 minutes of his ride,” recalls Killus.

And more than just fun, the events helped a worthy cause. “We are proud to say that we raised more then $450,000,” says Killus. “Part of our mission is giving back to the communities that we serve and our intention is to encourage these athletes to stay active. It is an inspiration to see what these special athletes have done to improve their lives, and it is something we are conscious of every single day.”

In a news release, Rick Collett, president and CEO of Special Olympics Northern California, expressed his gratitude to the club chain. “Special Olympics is honored to partner with 24 Hour Fitness,” he said. “Events like these help motivate Special Olympic athletes and supporters. This event has instilled great values — as well as help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for our 15 Special Olympic chapters.”