Medals4Mettle (M4M) was started by Dr. Steven Isenberg, a head and neck surgeon in Indianapolis who had impulsively given his finisher medal for the 2003 Chicago Marathon to a friend surviving cancer, feeling that his marathon finish paled in comparison to his friends struggle. Later, that friend would tell Dr. Isenberg how much the gesture meant, and how the medal continued to be a source of strength. Seeing a chance for good on a large scale, he started the non-profit, which has already helped place over 17,000 medals, largely to children's hospitals.
I had a chance to ask Bill Preston, President of Medals4Mettle, a bit about the organization:
1) M4M is a great idea. How did it get from the inception in 2003 to a full-blown non-profit?
It was Dr. Isenberg who took the initiative, realizing that all that was needed was a go-between to collect medals and match them up to patients and hospitals. We are continuing to grow through a network of volunteer coordinators who can help on a more local basis, and the word continues to grow and more and more get involved.
|(Coordinator Pam Kassner collecting medals)|
2) How many finisher medals have you given to patients so far? How do you choose who gets them?
We’ve donated over 17,000 medals since the inception of the charity over 6 years ago. Who receives a medal is at the discretion of the coordinators. We simply ask that the recipient be a person who faces challenges on a daily basis that we take for granted. Our hope is to acknowledge and encourage a person, basically make them feel like they are winners and just crossed a finish line. The largest recipients of the medals are children in hospitals but we would never turn away any agency that would benefit from our charity. Our recipients range from cancer survivors to patients in VA hospitals, and anything in between.
|(A son battling leukemia and his mom, battling breast cancer, show off their hardware...btw, CALL YOUR MOTHER!)|
3) Can anyone donate a medal? Do you have demand for specific races or kinds of races? The readers of this blog include a wide range of endurance nuts, from triathletes, to ultra marathoners, to adventure racers.
Yes, anyone can donate their medal as long as it is earned (no surplus medals from race directors). Our charity only focuses on running related endurance medals (half marathon distance or longer, and any distance triathlon). Disney medals are the most popular with kids, but all medals are accepted and greatly appreciated.
4) What's the biggest donation of medals you have ever received?
At one Indianapolis Mini Marathon, we received over 400 medals. But every medal makes a difference. We have been lucky that some professional athletes like Brian Sell and Bonnie Blair have donated their time and medals, which is helping get the word out.
5) I love that M4M makes philanthropy so accessible. Can someone donate a medal alone, or do they need to send cash too?
We attach our signature silk ribbon to each medal, emblazoned with the M4M logo as a way to link our organization to the medal. Our coordinators are responsible for raising funds to purchase those ribbons and we sell them to our coordinators at cost. Some people would rather donate a couple dollars rather than part with their medal. Both forms of donation are greatly appreciated and will be put to good use.
|(Brianna Whittemore donates her medal to Joshua, a patient at Cardinal Glennon in St. Louis)|
Yes, we do sell ribbons from our website for just such an occasion. We’ve also helped whenever a donor has requested that a specific medal go to a specific person. You really get to understand how much these medals mean to the patients when it's done in person.
7) How else can we help get the word out about M4M?
I would answer that based upon a person’s interest. If you have ties to the running or triathlon community, our cotton t-shirts are great conversation starters, and can be purchased through the website. Consider mentioning our charity in a blurb on a local running newsletter or website link.
If you have ties to the medical community, help us find an organization that could benefit by receiving our medals.
If neither of those fits you, please consider helping raise funds for our ribbons. Become a ribbon-a-month donor, have a bake sale, challenge your friends to top your donation. Even if our charity is not a good fit, then find one that has meaning to you. I promise, few things will give you more joy.
Thank you, Bill, and good luck!