Walkathons, 5K runs, long-distance bike races and even jumping jack challenges are tried-and-true in the world of fitness-based fundraisers, but there's at least one common calisthenic that gets neglected: the push-up.
How to helpLittle Friends is a Naperville-based nonprofit group founded in 1965 that serves about 800 children and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities each year. The organization operates three alternative schools and the Little Friends Center for Autism, serving residents of DuPage, Kane, western Cook, Will and Kendall counties. It offers 11 programs total, including family support services, vocational training and residential facilities for adults with disabilities.
To donate, visit littlefriendsinc.org and click "donate now" in the top right, or call (630) 355-6533.
Teams featuring 327 total participants took turns doing sets of 10 push-ups around the clock, and the gym gave Little Friends of Naperville a nickel for every rep completed -- even the modified push-ups many participants completed from their hands and knees instead of hands and feet.
"It was just something unique," Midwest Fit Club co-owner Shane Herman said about the push-ups idea. "We knew we wanted to do something performance-based to also encourage fitness."
Herman and co-owner Steve Arch also wanted to do something to help children, and Herman said he has a soft spot for the people served by Little Friends -- kids and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities from DuPage, western Cook, Kane, Will and Kendall counties.
"I've worked with a lot of people with limitations," Herman said. "I'm really passionate about creating opportunities for them."
The 24-hour push-up fundraiser brought in $5,160 from 5-cent contributions for 41,251 push-ups and other donations participants gave. Some signed up as organized teams -- like a group of Little Friends employees, board members and their children who kicked off the event, and a group of neighbors from the nearby High Meadow subdivision who followed their lead.
"We're always up for competition and raising money for good," said Michelle Massie, who dropped to the mat for several rounds of 10 push-ups with a group of neighbors who often host dance-offs and other lighthearted contests for their kids.
Later in the overnight hours, members of the gym, which has been open 24 hours for about a year and a half at 5019 Ace Lane in Naperville, dropped by informally and added push-ups for charity to their late-night workouts.
As the competition wore on, it became apparent who had been at it a while and who was fresh. Those completing their push-ups slowly were cheered and encouraged by other team members waiting their turns, while speed demons were ribbed for trying to milk as many 5-cent donations out of Midwest Fit Club as they could.
"It's neat to see people of different fitness levels come enjoy it," said Kari Krzemkowski, director of finance for Little Friends and a fitness enthusiast who loves lifting weights.
Midwest Fit Club and Little Friends connected through a program of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. Arch was looking to start a team-building event at the gym that would challenge members and support a local charity, and when he met staff members from Little Friends, it was a natural fit. Arch said he hopes to host a fundraiser on a similar scale as the push-ups challenge once a year.
Herman said the gym's owners chose push-ups as the activity for the fundraiser because they're a "non-intimidating, anybody-can-do-it kind of motion."
Herman is a certified personal trainer with six years' experience in the business before launching Midwest Fit Club. Push-ups may not intimidate him, but they challenged Little Friends staff members like Shawn McCarthy, who joked that her 7-year-old son, Joe, would have no trouble outdoing her, and Kathleen Hausmann, vice president of development, who modified her push-ups using her hands and knees.
Hausmann said Little Friends likely will use money from the Big Push-ups event to fund autism spectrum evaluations for children whose parents cannot afford the expensive tests and to buy iPads and SMART Boards for Kreji Academy, which teaches students ages 4 to 21. A ceremonial check marking the donation will be theirs at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, when gym leaders hand over the fruits of their 24-hour push-up journey.
While many groups hold "needs drives" for Little Friends, collecting food pantry or art supply items the organization requires for Kreji Academy or its residential programs for adults, staff members said the Big Push-ups challenge was a welcome twist on the usual fundraising methods.
"It's a really cool special event. It's something we've never tried before," Krzemkowski said. "It's not like you're sitting behind a desk trying to raise funds."