I can still remember the moment when the idea hit me six years ago.
I had just wrapped up my 5th year as the volunteer Race Director for what had become one of the most popular 5k races in the state of Florida. I had helped the Turtle Krawl grow from a local fun run to the largest 5k race in Brevard County, and was a finalist for the 2014 Volunteer of the Year Recognition Awards, hosted by Florida Today. People loved Turtle Krawl shirts and medals so much, it had become a destination race, with participants travelling from out of state and even other countries in order to participate.
Late one night during a guided Turtle Walk I was leading for the STPS in the summer of 2012, a family from Arizona asked me if they could participate in that year’s race from their home. The family would register for the race, we would mail them their race packet, and they would run their 5k from their home on the same day everyone else ran the Turtle Krawl in Florida. I agreed. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it at the time.
In 2013, more people asked about participating virtually, and I declined, thinking it would be too complicated to organize properly, needing a way to separate those registrations from the in-person ones, a way for people to submit their results, and of course the difficulty of mailing virtual participants their race swag. In 2014, after dozens more requests from people who just wanted to buy the shirt or medal to support the cause, I realized I needed to find a way to add an official virtual race option to the Turtle Krawl. I was knee deep in organizing the 2014 race at the time, so I told myself I would figure it out “next year.” Fast forward to after the 2014 race ended and things settled down, that’s when it hit me: If this many people wanted to join a virtual race to support this one charity I happened to be passionate about, surely there would be people who would want to support other charitable organizations through virtual races as well. As I thought through the possibilities of how it all might work, hosting a new virtual race for a new charity each and every month, I got more and more excited about the idea. My years of web development, fundraising, and race directing had all come together.
My long-time friend Mike and I had talked about going into business together for years, but we had never come up with the right idea. I emailed him late that first night, told him I had an idea I was really excited about (but gave no details), and asked if he was in. His reply the next morning was three words, “Yeah, I’m in.” And that’s when Virtual Strides was born.
Two months later, the website was live and our first virtual race was underway. The 2015 Resolution Run initially raised $800 for charity, and we were thrilled. Little did we know what was to come…
Fast forward 6 years and Virtual Strides has now raised more than $1 million for charity. As of this writing, the breakdown of this is $570,000 that we have directly donated to the charities we have featured and an additional $439,000 raised through our Partners Program. These details are all spelled out on Our Philosophy page, and every single donation we have ever made can be seen on The Charities page, as we have been completely transparent with our donations and fundraising since Day 1.
A lot, and I do mean a LOT, of competitors have popped up over the years, as happens with pretty much every good business idea. Some of them are entirely for-profit and others claim to donate a vague percentage of their profits to charity, but transparency has always been of paramount importance to us at Virtual Strides. It is important to us that you know exactly how much your support has helped each of the charitable organizations we have featured over the years.
And I am incredibly proud to say that that number surpassed $1 million yesterday:
I am truly humbled by this, and can not thank our customers enough for all of their support over the years.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Virtual Strides Founder