You've always wanted to run a marathon, bike a century ride, race on inline skates, or go for a triple-header in a triathlon. Wouldn't it be easier if you had a top-flight coach and a group of supportive teammates? In one of the most inventive and successful pairings of personal achievement and public good, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's nationwide Team in Training program puts coaches and small groups of amateur athletes together to train and participate in competitions such as the Bermuda Marathon, a beautiful course that follows the shoreline along coral and flower-lined roads, or the Mardi Gras Marathon, which gives you all the excuse you need to stay through the celebration, and party with the best of them. Cycling your thing? Your team might be headed to America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, a scenic and awe-inspiring course that circumnavigates the lake and includes two challenging climbs.
If this sounds less like traditional charity work and more like meeting a personal challenge, then everyone has won, and it's a sentiment that's catching on across the nation. Nearly half of U.S. adults donated their time to fundraising and other charitable activities in 2000, making up a volunteer workforce of 83.9 million people. This figure represents the equivalent of more than 9 million full-time employees at a value of $239 billion, according to Independent Sector, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of more than 700 national organizations. For the 1.23 million charities, social welfare organizations, and religious congregations in the United States, that's good news. The better news is that it's still early enough in this new year to make a resolution or two, and in that spirit, American Way looks at several worthy organizations, the people who support them with time or money or expertise, and the tenfold benefits they receive in return.