By JOHN J. BURO
OLD BRIDGE -It’s said -usually lovingly, but with a wince- that charity hurts. In most cases, the energy used to simply open the wallet pales in comparison to whatever energy is consumed during the actual event. The prevailing attitude is that many people would sooner hand over their money than pay to be involved.
Still, for the tidy sum of $10, The MAX Challenge of Old Bridge/Matawan (3879 County Rd 516, 732-617-6162), opened its doors on September 30 and offered any able-bodied entrant a full one-hour cardio workout, all for the benefit of Team Jamesy and JAR of Hope Foundation.
“When you think of what Jimmy (Raffone) is doing, it’s crazy, but it’s a beautiful kind of crazy,” said Alexandra (Alex) Bates, the establishment’s 28 year-old manager and instructor, and one of 21 runners who pledged $5,000 to represent JoH in the TCS NYC Marathon on November 5. “He shows determination like I’ve never seen before, and that there are no limits. You just have to keep pushing to make a difference in the world.
“And, that only gets people to want to push further, to be part of that difference.”
The expanded workout drew over 50 people, many of whom had already known what JAR of Hope represented. They knew because Raffone, its founder, has been imploring people to understand for the last four years -ever since his then four-year old son Jamesy was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
(Note: As she spoke, Raffone and his determined team of runners were attempting to circumnavigate all 170 miles of the Grand Canyon in their continued quest to raise both awareness and funding for the cause.)
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Upon arriving home from college four years ago, Bates -who, at the time, lived nearby- sauntered by to see what The MAX was all about. Despite participating in soccer and track while growing up, she professed to be self-motivated in every aspect of life except fitness.
Bates soon enrolled and has, subsequently, emerged as a vital member of the business -particularly when gliding effortlessly from one task to another, mindful to not let her youthfulness interfere with a client base that, on occasion, is twice as old.
“I treat everyone as a unique individual, each with their own story,” she said. “For me, this is the best job possible, because I get to meet so many different ages every single day.”
Bates, who has watched her mother, Melanie, run the NYC Marathon in past years, had already partaken in the Philadelphia equivalent prior to last year’s five-borough debut. Teaming with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention- she waltzed home in under five hours, and ahead of nearly 16,000 others runners in the 51,000+ field.
“Mom doesn’t run anymore; she has passed the torch to me,” added Bates, who noted that support from outsiders along the way helped her cruise past the finish line. “That, and I was starving,” she laughed.
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In 2017, fundraising can be quite nerve-wracking. Not only must the cause tug at one’s heartstrings but, in this economy, even the most ardent supporter needs to be judicial.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” she admitted. “In a perfect world, you’ll raise the money a little quicker, but…
If anything, it’s just like the marathon; you have to realize why you’re doing it. The money will, of course, help with the science, but we also want to raise awareness.”
Bates’ effort -one that she asked to join- is just another example of a community rallying around a cause. And, when some form of exercise is the catalyst, it is merely because the afflicted are physically challenged and, therefore, restricted in their endeavors.
Bates fully understands that, and appreciates what a healthy life has enabled her to do.
“There are people who, unfortunately, can’t do a workout like this. But, for those who can, we must continue to inspire everyone else around us.”
Thus, there was a collective sigh of relief when the final exercise -a one-minute plank- concluded the session. The seven instructors had done what they were expected to do: make each of their routines compelling and test even the most seasoned MAXer.
Along the way, each participant was reminded why they were there to begin with: for the 20,000 stateside boys (and 300,000 worldwide) with Duchenne who are not physically able to do jumping jacks or push-ups. And, without a cure, many of them would not reach their 30s.
So, while charity occasionally hurts, it is still far better than the alternative. There are just too many youngsters who can’t -and probably never will- share an experience like this, and that is really all the incentive one needs.