There’s nothing more inspiring to me than to learn and grow from friends and family who care about and champion a better world for all. I notice how they publicly share their personal experiences and accomplishments as well as their role in meaningful causes. These wonderful people have created platforms through social media, press, or in books, advocating for positive change. They are teachers, leaders, and whole champions with a purposeful mindset that inspires many of us to be more aware and active on behalf of the greater good.
While there is a lot of ‘bad’ in this world, there is a lot of good with enormous potential to counteract the bad. The positive possibilities are endless, they only need to be tapped. There’s no formula or prescription for doing the right thing or being in the right place to counteract the many challenges plaguing the world; it’s simply critical that everyone who is able do something to step up for positive change.
As a mother of two young girls, I spent most of our time living the good life, without a lot of emphasis on being good in life. We did our best, but it wasn’t a huge concern or a big conscious effort. Our living in a privileged bubble embarrassed me up until recently, when I realized every little thing matters. And it’s never too late to give where there’s a need. Since the girls were babies, in the back of our car, we kept small paper bags for the times we encountered a homeless person with a sign asking for help. Each bag contained a bottle of water, a pair of socks, a $5 bill, and an energy bar. Later, we gathered unworn clothing and made frequent trips to the abused women’s shelter in Berkeley, California, where we lived. On Sunday walks to our favorite coffee shop, my oldest daughter, Hilary, brought a paper bag filled with books for a homeless family who camped nearby. The mother and young girl smiled at Hilary’s offering, and Hilary was warmed deep within for the chance to help. Yet, I’m still remorseful that I didn’t realize until well into my 50s, the true extent of challenges facing humanity and the environment. Instead, our life was fully wrapped up in sport; we sought to achieve the goal of champion in each of our respective sports: off-road triathlon for me, ski racing and equestrian jumping for my daughters. Call it an awakening, but when I had the chance to finally SLOW DOWN due to a major injury, I finally realized it was high time to expand my personal aspirations far beyond being a winning champion. It was time to be a champion of humanity, the environment, and of the whole world. I suddenly identified as a whole champion, a term I invented to encompass someone who aspired personally and far beyond, someone who with great awareness and care expanded the understanding of personal responsibility to include social and environmental responsibility.
Many human beings don’t fully comprehend the severity of damage we humans have imposed on the planet we call home. Nor do people understand that science and technology are no longer a solution for our world’s extreme challenges. It’s up to people; we must all step up and do our part for a positive difference. It starts with being aware, caring, and taking action. The possibilities of making a real difference are endless.
Today, I am proud to play a more active role for a better world. People all around me do the same. I call each a whole champion. They combine their personal aspirations with active care of people and places near and far. They value their own and humanity’s well-being, they live by kindness and inclusiveness, and they take action on behalf of equality, justice, and environmental safety for all. I want to stand on a rooftop with the hopes they will hear me shout out, “Thank you!”
Particular people have moved me with their powerful gifts as a force for good in the world. They are champions of change. They are just a few of the many people who deserve recognition as stewards of positive change for our world. As the Founder of the Whole Champion Foundation, I thank you for sharing all the ways you help to make the world a better place for all.
Thank you, these champions of positive change.
Kaylin Richardson is a former member of the United States Ski Team who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. She is now a mom and feature adventurer/all mountain skier in award-winning ski films, and she is a champion of the human spirit. Her social media posts serve three purposes: to share her passion for skiing and the great outdoors, to show her love of her baby girl and their beautiful surroundings, and to encourage others to join her in stepping up to important social and environmental causes requiring attention and support.
Pam Smilow is my favorite artist, my best friend since fifth grade, a wonderful mother, political activist, and author of the best blog ever: Things We Love. Her extra-large canvases of decorative art took a back seat during COVID, when she launched into paintings of life-size people she missed: her dad, her late husband, her beautiful daughter Morgan, her childhood besties including the twins (I am one of the twins), the Obamas, then Biden and Kamala Harris for President, Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia, and portraits of the individuals whose live were taken prompting the Black Lives Matter Movement: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Emmett Till and Ahmaud Arbery. From here, she launched an all-new artful campaign for equality and justice with lawn signs and protest posters. She has contacted the families to gift them with high resolution images of their lost loved ones.
Maya Meringue, a friend whom I’ve watched learn to swim and push towards marathon swimming since she was 10 years old, just completed the Catalina Channel 21-mile swim at age 14, now the youngest in the world to accomplish this solo feat. Just before, she swam across all 10.6 miles of Lake Tahoe. But what she also accomplished is raising awareness of pediatric cancer and close to $14,000 for two important pediatric cancer programs at UCSF BENIOFF CHILDREN’S Hospitals in Oakland and San Francisco, California. In honor of the friends and family members that were lost to cancer and others, she wrote their names on her swim cap. During each of her marathon swims, she reminds herself that even if it gets hard, it’s nothing compared to what cancer patients go through. Maya is the epitome of a whole champion. What she will accomplish going forward will be nothing short of spectacular.
Brian Boyle, a world class triathlete, author, speaker, blood donor, husband, father, and son, openly shares his story of surviving a horrific accident of being hit by a car while returning home on his bike from a swim workout; there were small odds of surviving the medically-induced coma for two months. His fight for life is an epic story, full of courageous faith, physical therapy, family love, and the relentless support from the American Red Cross. After fully recovering, he returned to sport, training for long distance triathlon, and giving back as a Red Cross Ambassador. Two years ago, his second child Liam, was born with a complicated heart condition requiring life-threatening invasive surgeries. Now, in addition to his work with the Red Cross, he is an advocate for pediatric heart health awareness, research, and technology. Brian encourages us to step up to blood donations and asks for support for not only his son’s survival but that of other young patients, each fighting to conquer the complications of heart disease.
Jacob Puzey, one of the highest ranked ultra runners in the world, is an advocate of being open about depression, loss, and mental illness. Included in his posts about running mountain marathons, his love and care for his family, and his concern for his beloved brother and fellow ultra runner champion Tommy Puzey who is struggling for his life battling lung cancer, Jacob invites his thousands of followers to follow his efforts to “shed light on mental health” and provides education and treatment information through his mental health campaign and non-profit organization, Bigger than the Trail.
Maggie Doyne, known as CNN’s Hero of the Year in 2015, dedicated herself at age 19 to the welfare of children and families in Nepal. Instead of going to college like most of her peers, she ventured around the world to find herself in Nepal, compelled to reverse the course of many children’s and family’s lives. Over several years and tremendous support from friends worldwide, Maggie created a safe, clean, and stable home, then school and now hospital for the children in the Kopila Valley, Nepal. She founded the non-profit organization Blink Now, which believes that every child has a right to a safe home, love, medical care, and a quality education. The organization works towards providing children with the support they deserve, to grow up to be adults and leaders prepared to tackle the challenges of poverty and violence in the world.
Jill L. Ferguson is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, writing coach, business consultant, and much more. These are some of the ways she embodies being a whole champion: She has o- blood which is in demand, so she gives blood whenever possible. She’s a firm believer in reducing human impact on the earth. Thus, she walks most places. She and her husband keep a big bucket in the shower to collect the shower water and use it to water the garden. They keep a second one in the kitchen sink to reuse the water from hand washing, veggie washing, dish washing, etc. They organically grow a lot of fruits and vegetables, and their choice in coffee supports a widows’ home and feeding programs for more than 16,000 people each week in Nicaragua. Their house has solar panels and they use way less electricity than they generate (causing a credit bill balance with the power company).
Jill funds four scholarships each year at her undergraduate alma mater, and she and her husband practice charity in their neighborhood by buying meals for people who are experiencing homelessness, joblessness, and mental health issues. And Jill wrote a kids’ picture book, Harry the Scaredy Super Seal, on bullying and fear but it is also environmental in nature because a turtle gets wrapped in fishing line and needs to be rescued by her best friend, Harry, a harbor seal, who overcomes his fears to save her life.
Dakota Lotus is a 16-year LA-based superstar musician, actor, and social activist who dedicates his original music to combatting hate and bullying. He advocates for the end of bullying in the lives of adolescents and everyone; he insists on spreading a message of peace, anti-hate, and anti-bullying.
Diane Hollman is a friend whom I refer to as today’s Mother Teresa. She believes the only way that anything heals is through spiritually. Her reason for going into the most peaceful place within through meditation is to radiate peace and love out to the world. Diane chooses to eat only organic food, she buys produce at farmer’s markets, and makes a point to support local businesses.
She is acutely sensitive to people in her life who are struggling, and reaches out to teach her gratitude practice. She doesn’t believe change happens from writing in a journal, rather she prefers to reach out in active conversation and speak of gratitude. She asks the people in her life, “What are you giving to your heart today?” Her daily intention is to choose thoughts that make her feel good, because she knows that if she feels good then she will have a positive influence on her surroundings. Diane looks for the good in anyone, and whenever possible, she gifts a compliment.
Mikaela Shiffrin is an American alpine ski racer; she is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and a three-time Overall World Cup champion, a four-time world champion in slalom, and a six-time winner of the World Cup discipline title in that event. Shiffrin is the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history, at 18 years. She is the only skier to win World Cup races in all six alpine race disciplines.
Justice and honesty are sacred to Mikaela, which she expresses through her generous actions in support of humanitarian causes, and through her music: song-writing, singing, and guitar playing. She is a model of resiliency, and on behalf of her father’s tragic death, she established a special fund to help athletes, teams, and training camps during times of uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
These are a few of the whole champions I know. I will write about more and about more causes in future blog posts. And if you would like to nominate a whole champion, please say who and why in the comments below.