Eric Tostrud of Wisconsin started fundraising for Team Fox out of frustration. After his mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD), he was in disbelief:
"I didn't sugarcoat it. I watched my mom not drink, not smoke, exercise before people exercised. She did everything right."
He found that his candor helped him connect with others who wanted to join him in taking action. A fitness enthusiast who often takes spin classes through Peloton Cycle, Eric decided to hop on his bike and pedal toward a cure.
In 2016 and 2017, Eric and his team, Peloton4Parkinson's, held virtual "spin-raisers" for Team Fox. In honor of Parkinson's Awareness Month in April, Eric rode every single class offered at the New York City studio on the last Friday of the month --from 5 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. Others could join in person or through Peloton's virtual classes. To date, Eric and Peloton4Parkinson's have raised more than $14,000, with 100 percent of all proceeds going directly to The Michael J. Fox Foundation's pursuit of a cure for PD.
Eric used social media to promote the fundraiser and to find other riders, both within the PD and Peloton communities. (Peloton riders across the country can connect through an avatar while riding, and instructors can access what Eric is doing and share with others in their classes.)
People with PD are among those who joined. One man in his 50s, Kevin Schmid, joined from Montana for the entire day in 2017. Eric's mom has participated both years. While riding, she shared what it's like to live with PD and encouraged fellow riders to donate per mile.
As donations added up, so did the miles, to the tune of approximately 150 miles per day. "By the end of the day, my legs were a little sore," he says, noting it's worth it. "It's such an invigorating thing."
His advice for anyone who wants to do a virtual athletic fundraiser? Focus on your favorite activity, whether it's spinning, running, kayaking or walking. Then tell everyone you know: "Put yourself out there to your friends and family and put it out there on social media and tell your story."
Interested in using your workout to accelerate Parkinson's research and a cure? Learn more, join or donate to Team Peloton for Parkinson's here. Or email email@example.com about starting your own virtual fundraiser.
Jen A. Miller is a freelance journalist and author of the memoir Running: A Love Story.