Team Make Your Mark Virtual 6 Challengers Help End Lupus
If we have learned anything in 2020, it’s to adapt to change. While the coronavirus pandemic put traditional endurance races to a halt, that didn’t stop Team Make Your Mark! In September, 500 participants across the country, as well as in Canada and the UK, participated in a virtual endurance event – the Virtual 6 Challenge, raising awareness and funds for critical lupus research.
The number “6” in the challenge represents the average years for an individual to receive an accurate lupus diagnosis from the onset of symptoms. To raise awareness of this and the signs and symptoms of lupus, participants completed 6 miles in 6 days, whether they chose to run, jog, walk, hike or even paddleboard!
The virtual event caught the eyes of two lupus warriors excited for a challenge and to connect with the lupus community in a new way - Aida Crosson, who has a passion for fundraising to help end lupus, and Karen Ng, an LFA Asian Support Group leader.
Both diagnosed over 20 years ago, Aida and Karen didn’t know what to think when they found out they had lupus. Through it all, they remained resilient thanks to a tight support system and their dedication to spreading the word and raising awareness around lupus. And, in such a time of uncertainty, the Virtual 6 Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time.
What made you join the Virtual 6 Challenge?
Aida: This was an opportunity to stay involved and engaged, at a time where it has been difficult to stay connected to the cause. I am reminded every day of lupus, as I experience it firsthand. This was the perfect reason to get out there again and stay active.
Karen: The Virtual 6 Challenge stood out to me because it took place over the course of multiple days, it was a less intimidating distance, and it was an excuse to motivate friends, family, and support group members to engage in activities that promote movement – enhancing both their physical & mental health!
What did the challenge personally mean to you?
A: The challenge was a blessing in disguise, because it really forced me to get out there and do something – safely. I was so focused and excited to be a part of something again, while also connecting with others living with lupus, especially during this time.
K: The Virtual 6 Challenge was meaningful to me for both personal growth and for the growth of my support group. It meant that I could incentivize a team to prioritize their health over the course of a week while participating in a meaningful cause.
How did you choose to complete your 6 miles in 6 days?
K: I set a goal of covering at least 3 miles each day, a distance that was realistic for me on a daily basis. Staying consistent was my goal – it didn’t matter how fast I ran, I just focused on not stopping and simply finishing.
Karen, you also built a team for the Virtual 6 Challenge – why was building a team important to you? What did your team do to unite virtually?
K: At the end of the day, we all want to feel part of an effort, that we are sharing an experience that brings us together.
To unite virtually, I sent regular emails updating and encouraging our team. I asked members to submit pictures to me directly so I could compile a team collage. In addition, I wanted team members to “meet” each other and conclude the event so I hosted a post-challenge Zoom meeting where team members could share their Virtual 6 experiences and view the slide show together.
Aida, you’ve been working to help others impacted by lupus for years now. What goals did you set for yourself? And how did you fundraise for the Virtual 6 Challenge?
A: Initially, I was hesitant to ask for money, because we’re all going through such difficult times. But I remembered that I have an amazing support group of friends, and I reached out to them. I also thought of it as a great opportunity to educate others by sharing my story and the story of those close to me, while providing information about lupus from the LFA. It really wakes their curiosity. I ended up surpassing my goal of $1,000 and ended up raising $1,300!
What was your favorite part of the Virtual 6 Challenge experience?
A: My favorite part was getting to meet people from around the country. Cheering for one another, that was pretty amazing!
K: So many elements made the Virtual 6 a fun experience! I enjoyed seeing and sharing pictures of lupus warriors in action wearing their cool running buffs.
The supportive community on the Strava group and social media was so welcoming. During the span of the event, I felt boosted by the encouragement of others. It showed that I was not alone.
Aida, for those who may think fundraising is a daunting task, do you have any advice or tips for them?
A: There are a lot of people who are willing to support and give, even within your circle of friends. No amount is ever too small.
Anything else you would like to share about your experience with the V6 Challenge?
A: I look forward to doing the challenge again next year. It came at the right time for me, I needed that push. It’s not about how fast or how far you walk, but just the simple fact that you’re walking, and you’re able to have a group of friends cheering you on virtually.
I am determined and focused on continuing to bring awareness of the disease, and advocating for myself and others. We need to get the word out there. We need to continue the fight, while we find a cure.
K: I think it is important to show that lupus doesn’t have to hold us back. The fact that the challenge was cumulative meant that even though our energy level may be depleted one day, there’s always tomorrow. Mindful actions every day can help us reach a goal. We can show that we can be strong, we can be united, and we can make an impact!