The Philly Phive Ks: Run and walk for the health of our city

If you haven’t heard the story of the BatKid by now, you must be hiding in the deepest recesses of Gotham. The BatKid, whose real identity was revealed as five-year-old Miles from Northern California (now in remission after a life and death battle against leukemia), made a Make-A-Wish Foundation wish to fight crime for a day as BatKid. Miles roused the spirit of San Francisco last week (helped along by an enormous social media campaign) as thousands of residents lined city streets and gathered at City Hall to show their support for the pint-sized caped crusader.

What made this event so inspiring was how the community came together in a shared desire to grant this young boy’s wish. The Mayor of San Francisco Edwin Lee gave Miles a key to the city made of chocolate after his day of fighting crime; the city had staged events so that BatKid could save a “damsel in distress” and capture the Riddler and the Penguin. Even the San Francisco Chronicle got into the spirit, printing a special edition front page proclaiming “BatKid Saves the City.”

Much like San Franciscans, Philadelphians are also filled with civic pride, and find ways to support each other through good times and bad.  We are, after all, the City of Brotherly Love. Witness the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service events that draw tens of thousands of people from across the region to volunteer their time to help many in need in our communities.

Or what about the almost-weekly runs and walks that take place at the foot of the Philadelphia Art Museum on weekend mornings throughout the year? From the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to AIDS Walk Philly, such charity run/walks allow us to participate in honor, support, and/or memory of our friends and loved ones—or, to just to support a good cause. Such events are not only a great way to raise money for charities in need, but also to raise awareness of the health and social problems that we face as a community.

What if we could take the best of these types of events—selfless dedication to those in need and a willingness to contribute financially in some way—to create a series of charity run/walks, from which the proceeds would be donated to local non-profit organizations that help Philadelphians in need? Philadelphia, after all, remains the poorest big city in the United States, and more than 25% of our fellow citizens live below the federal poverty line. These statistics are not just numbers. They impact the health and well-being of our community day in and day out.

Here’s my vision: Every year we put on five 5K run/walks at different locations across our city. For each Philadelphia Phive K event, one or multiple local non-profits with track records for improving the lives of those they serve, would be selected to receive the event’s proceeds.  In the weeks leading up to each run/walk, a marketing campaign would call attention to the issues the beneficiaries of the events prioritize. So, for example, if an organization serving the pre- and post-natal needs of pregnant Philadelphians and their babies were to be selected as the beneficiary, experts from St. Christopher’s Hospital, the Drexel University School of Public Health, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia could, through coordinated lectures and media events, call attention to the challenges facing moms and babies in Philadelphia. The City’s Health Department could do the same. Let’s think big and get the media involved, too—our local TV and radio stations, newspapers, and blogs could contribute their expertise as well.

The Philadelphia Phive Ks could be co-organized by the City of Philadelphia’s Get Healthy Philly campaign and The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. The Get Health Philly campaign would be charged with raising awareness around the events for general health and well-being issues like exercise and nutrition. The United Way would bring to the partnership its relationships with the many non-profits across the region and by acting as a conduit to distribute funds to organizations that improve the lives of Philadelphians most in need. The city’s business community would provide sponsorship to defray costs. Local sports teams could also serve as co-sponsors, highlighting the intersection of sound health, good-hearted competition, and giving back to our communities. And maybe our local sports legends could participate as honorary event chairs. Our academic institutions could also participate, providing the expertise, in partnership with the City and our non-profits, for public awareness campaigns associated with the event.

Lots of people, institutions, and organizations coming together to do good for the health of our community.

Almost 6 million people live in the Philadelphia metro region. If we could turn out a small fraction of those to support these events we could raise a significant amount of money for those in need. We could also generate a considerable amount of civic pride and good will.

Think about all we could do together. The BatKid would be proud.

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