Wednesday, September 10, 2014
One Supporter Goes the Distance for Mayan Families: The Story Behind Rhode Island's Reviver Challenge
She has a heart of gold and an undeniable drive to make a difference. Read how one Rhode Island resident and long-term supporter has literally gone the distance for the Mayan Families’ mission.
Catherine Reyes became involved with Mayan Families three years ago when she came to Guatemala to run the Lake Atitlan Marathon. With a donation of $600, she was able to provide basic necessities to two local families, an experience that continues to fuel her strength both during grueling races and simply on a daily basis.
Cat with her sponsored students
“They were some of the most amazing people I had ever met. One was a man who lost his legs in a tragic bus accident and had walked all the way from Tierra Linda to pick up the bed we donated. The vision I have of our first meeting will forever be etched in my mind. It felt so ‘right’ to give this man and his family a little comfort in this difficult life we live. I was truly inspired by his strength and I think about him any time I have an ache or pain during a marathon!”
But it was her encounter with Maria Marta that really moved her. A `single indigenous Mayan mother with two daughters from San Antonio Palopo, Maria struggles to put food on the table and at the time was unable to give her two daugthers a comfortable place to sleep. Cat recalls delivering a stove and a bed to her during a quintessential Guatemalan downpour after trekking up a nearly vertical hillside to her house, a daily walk for her and her family.
“As I looked around the conditions in which they lived – a mere mud shack that they called their home – I was moved. I asked her what she would cook on the stove that night for dinner and she pointed to two tiny fish sitting on the windowsill. I began to weep, thinking about all I had back home in my cabinets. I almost felt pathetic. This woman was the epitome of strength.”
Like many others who visit Guatemala and see for themselves the desperate conditions in which many rural families live, Cat has since been determined to help as much as she can. “The joy I feel from that initial trip is forever embedded in my heart. I have the picture of the joy in their faces when they received their new bed and I look at it every day. It inspires me to do more.”
Maria Marta and her two daughters
Although Cat continues to explore different, unique fundraising strategies throughout the year, including selling hand-beaded key chains from our Guatemalan artisans and introducing new types of athletic events, Cat’s most successful endeavor to date has been founding the Reviver Challenge. The annual event, which is run completely by volunteers and based in Rhode Island, challenges hundreds of runners of all ages to complete a 2.5-mile obstacle course. The Reviver Challenge’s following continues to grow like wildfire, largely thanks to Cat’s determination. This past June, the Challenge’s fourth anniversary, they had nearly 700 runners!
“I tied the obstacles that the people of Guatemala have on a daily basis with the idea of an obstacle course. Our theme was ‘Run for THEM.’ In doing so, we tried to motivate people not to just run for the sake of doing a race, but to give to a great cause and have a blast doing it.”
Enthusiastic Reviver runners during the 2014 race
The proceeds from the event are donated to Mayan Families, as well as a local charity that is also near and dear to Cat’s heart. With the thousands of dollars of donations raised through Reviver this summer, Cat and 23 other supporters joined us for a week-long, jam-packed group volunteer trip.
“We had raised about $14,000 to use while there, so Mayan Families surely put us to work! We separated into three different groups: a construction crew, a crew that delivered beds and pilas to families and a crew who helped out in the preschool. We were able to build a home for my sponsored student [Maria Marta’s daughter] and her family, who I had met and fell for on our first trip. What an adventure!”
New house built with help from the Reviver Challenge volunteer group
Cat with Maria Marta and her family
She also recalls the group delivering beds and pilas to their sponsored students and struggling to carry all the supplies up a steep hillside. “Between trying to get the mattresses and the cement up that mountain, we all grew as individuals and helped us connect with the beautiful Mayan people.”
Working together to get pilas up the stell hillside in San Antonio
But her favorite parts about her most recent volunteer summer trips were playing soccer against the Mayan Families staff, which was actually the initial inspiration for her latest fundraising challenge – Mud Dodge Ball. If you or anyone you know is in the Rhode Island area this weekend and feel like getting dirty for a great cause, you should check it out! See below for details.
Even with a full household to run at home, Cat’s energy and enthusiasm only seems to be getting bigger. “I honestly think the biggest key is being a spark that gets the fire going in other people. I truly have a passion for this work and LOVE being a part of it. When I talk about it, people start to get interested, and little by little, I have them booking their plane ticket to Guatemala and having no idea what they are getting into.I am surrounded by so many good-hearted people and it's really like a fire once they get hooked.”
Thank you from all of us at Mayan Families for your continued dedication to support our cause!
If you are in the New England area and are interested in participating in this weekend's Mud Dodgeball Fundraising event lead by Cat, please email Cat at email@example.com. Also, be sure to check out the Reviver Challenge website for more information: www.reviverchallenge.com.
To see all the fantastic work the Reviver team accomplished this summer, check out their video on Youtube.
To learn more about creative fundraising ideas, see our Fundraise For Us page.