Running to help

Running to help

’Tis the season for giving — not just to loved ones, but also to organizations that help those in need.

Athletes can log training miles and contribute to charity at the same time. Charity Miles is a company that developed an app allowing runners, walkers and ­bicyclists to earn money for charity.

The athlete must carry a phone along on the workout, and the app uses the phone’s GPS to measure distance. The athlete can choose from one of the 40 charities that partner with Charity Miles. Corporate sponsors donate money to the charities.

Paula Cler of St. Joseph started about running with Charity Miles two years ago after hearing about it through word of mouth. One of her sisters learned about it from a friend in an exercise class.

“I’m going to go on this run. If someone else is willing to give money to charity for me, why not?” Cler said.

Blog PhotoShe and her fiance, Michael Tankersley, usually run with a phone. Tankersley started running for Charity Miles about a year and a half ago. The two just run with one phone, and they use Charity Miles for most of their runs, although not for races when they don’t want to carry a phone. The only downside, Cler said, is having the app open during a run does drain the battery a little more quickly.

Cler and Tankersley sometimes pick a random organization from the list of charities on the app, but often they choose something that is meaningful to them. Cler used to work as an aide to a child with autism, so she often chooses Autism Speaks as the charity to benefit from her miles.

Tankersley has done the Champaign to Peoria St. Jude run several times, so the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is another charity they sometimes choose. And many of their runs benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — inspired by Murelle Plotner, a St. Joseph teenager and runner who has been treated for cancer and its aftereffects for the past several years.

“When we run for certain charities, we’re thinking of people like her,” Tankersley said.

The two appreciate the wide variety of charities they could benefit with their runs. Among the other organizations that partner with Charity Miles are Special Olym­pics, National Park Foundation, Habi­tat for Humanity, World Wildlife Fund, Achilles International, American Diabetes Association, ASPCA and Team Red, White & Blue.

Cler has run 1,188 miles for charity since she began using the app. When she finishes a run, the app tells her how much she’s earned for the organization she chose.

“It’s not a lot, but with a lot of people it would add up,” she said.

“It’s a cool way to use running to support people,” Tankersley said. “We’re not doing anything other than running but it’s a way to help, doing something we like to do.”

In addition to Charity Miles, there are many races that benefit charitable organizations. This time of year, there are Jingle Bell Run 5K races around the country that benefit the Arthritis Foundation. There are upcoming Jingle Bell Runs in Peoria and Wheaton on Dec. 3; in Kankakee on Dec. 11; and at Soldier Field in Chicago on Dec. 17.

Runners who will be participating in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon races on April 21-22 will likely be starting their training runs early in 2017. They can choose to run for one of the 15 charities associated with the marathon.


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at, or follow her at Her blog is at

 On the web

For more information about Charity Miles, go to its website at or its Facebook page at

Find out about the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Runs at

More information about the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon charity running partners is available on its website at


Photo: Michael Tankersley and Paula Cler, shown running on New Year's Eve 2015, use the Charity Miles app to benefit charitable organizations on most of their runs.


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