Many individuals live in a bubble of their creation, concerned with their own well-being, goals and dreams. Barbara Edelston Peterson—a master of sport and world champion in off-road triathlon—spent much of her adult life this way, collecting trophies, titles, and sponsorships from leading global brands like Patagonia, KIND, Oakley, Suunto, Specialized Bicycles, and Lululemon. A few years ago, however, she experienced an awakening; a realization that shook her to the core and transformed her world.
While packing for a European championship race in Switzerland, Barbara had a serious fall that left her with two broken heels, and a prognosis that she may never properly walk again. Life came to a screeching halt; the abundance of time allowed her to be still and reflect. “I suddenly found myself questioning what I saw as an indulgent, self-absorbed life. I felt embarrassed that all of my focus was on the challenges in sport, with little to no concern about the challenges in the world. To be a top athlete requires fierce dedication and full-time focus, but it doesn’t have to mean living life in a vacuum. That’s not an acceptable way for anyone to live, especially strong, talented, passionate people whose vital energy could be used to make a difference. Something extremely uncomfortable came over me, like a tidal wave of shame.” That was the beginning of Barbara’s turning point.
Given the epiphany and her insatiable drive, Barbara decided to do everything in her power to teach herself, and others, how to be a Whole Champion—someone who does their best to be a positive influence in the world. Looking to Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and 1% for the Planet, and Daniel Lubetzky, founder of KIND, she found herself deeply inspired to become a leader encouraging all people to value their own and others’ well-being, to live by kindness and inclusiveness, and to take action on behalf of equality, justice, and environmental safety for all. She carefully studied the B Corps trend, believing that if corporations were restructured as a force of good, and committed to making the world better, so too could human beings learn to integrate personal, social, and environmental responsibility, to benefit the whole world.
Through hard work, research, and heart, her brainchild Whole Champion Foundation launched in 2020. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, Whole Champion is an educational platform, philosophy, method, and movement for positive global change. Its mission is to inspire people from all walks of life to become aware, responsible, and take action helping to reduce the severity of the issues facing humanity and the environment. Although the goal might seem lofty and individual applications will vastly differ, Barbara’s tenacity and passion position her to energize the collective in a monumentally positive way.
“I’ve learned that being a champion (of any kind) can either be self-indulgent and neglectful to the challenges around us, or it can be the ideal opportunity to become a role model, a steward of change, and someone who shares skills, wisdom, determination, on a platform for the greater good. Our world needs Whole Champions, people who give to the best of their ability for the greater good—for humanity and the environment, not just the self.”
Barbara’s story is a relatable one. Although we may not all be world-class athletes, most people are inclined to live in their own space and be absorbed with their own issues rather than be concerned with humanity and the planet. The organization provides useful and accessible tools, such as the Whole Champion Meta Index, a database of global organizations and resources dedicated to social and environmental causes. The website offers Barbara’s book A Whole Person Makes the Whole World Better, and two kids’ workbooksthat aim to teach students, teachers, and parents/guardians the importance of personal, social, and environmental responsibility. Other resources can be accessed through social media, the blog, and ongoing special campaigns. Through the Instagram posts, the website, blog, and campaigns, the Foundation facilitates information-sharing, while fostering reciprocal relationships in all 196 countries of the world.
As the Whole Champion logo suggests, the movement is about everybody stepping up in their own unique and colorful way for a better world. “When this happens, we will live in a world of hope, dignity, care, and safety.” This Herculean mission is possible, but only if the collective comes together to be part of the effort, making a difference one cause, one person, and one day at a time.
If you’d like to learn more about Whole Champion, go to https://wholechampion.org and join the movement!