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Getting fit for a cause. (Photo courtesy of Fit for a Cause)

Campus Spotlight: Fit for a Cause (FFAC)

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It is often easy to become de-motivated in working out during the cold, dreary winter semester. Having an incentive to work out is integral to keeping healthy during the school year. Fit For A Cause (FFAC) McGill is a student organization that offers fitness classes run by volunteers. The classes are by donation and the proceeds go towards the Sun Youth Organization’s (SYO) Sports and Recreation program. These affordable programs, with a minimum $2 donation per class, are great for a student on the budget. Moreover, a growing variety of activities are becoming available, including aerobics, circuit, yoga, and more.

“My mission is to share my knowledge and passion for fitness with others, and give back to the community,” said FFAC executive Clark Wiebe. “I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live a healthy and active lifestyle, regardless of socioeconomic status and background.”

“The idea honestly came from my mom,” Wiebe continued. “I told her in conversation last year that I loved teaching fitness classes so much that I would do it for free. Then she said ‘Well why don’t you raise money for charity?’”

As of May 2014, the club is specifically committed to the SYO’s After School Nutrition program. Located on St. Urbain, SYO opened the second food bank in Canada in 1981. Today, it is a multi-service centre for the community. They provide highly personalized programs and services through education, awareness, and material assistance. The aim of the After School Nutrition program is to help the disadvantaged youth participate in sports activities. Before practices, SYO provides nutritious foods so that the kids have more energy to participate.

“At McGill, it is admittedly easy to become preoccupied with academics above all, which unfortunately sometimes comes at the expense of personal health,” said FFAC member Nickoo Merati. “Finding a balance […] has proven to be difficult; however, FFAC’s supportive and sympathetic environment has helped me stay motivated.”

Although it is quite new, the club has managed to reach over 600 McGill students and staff. For most, it is difficult to find inexpensive fitness classes close to campus. The health and fitness environment can also appear intimidating, especially without prior experience. Furthermore, the problem of scheduling regular classes is not an easy one to overcome. The FFAC hosts numerous events throughout the year. Usually located at the McGill gym, students have a chance to pick and choose which class they would like to participate in with no pressure. The FFAC likes to attach themes to the sessions—it’s quite hard to turn down a ’90s themed workout that promises to play Justin Timberlake. Often, the workshops are also cleverly timed; the FFAC hosted a welcome Halloween detox to cleanse everyone after a full night of candy-eating.

“It’s difficult for me to motivate myself to go to fitness classes,” said U1 Arts student Anis Farid. “But, if on top of the exercise it is also for a good cause, there is definitely incentive for me to go and check it out.”

The FFAC also partners with other organizations on campus to organize fitness-based charity events. Back in October, they collaborated with McGill Students for Partners in Health (PIH) and Exercise is Medicine McGill to present Strides for Solidarity, a fundraising walkathon fitness circuit. This event promoted the PIH Community Health Workers who walk great distances to serve patients.

“I am so thankful for the opportunities that FFAC has brought me,” said member Courtney Fitzpatrick, a U2 psychology student.  “This club has introduced me to an outlet for my passions of spreading health and fitness, an amazing group of people to share this enthusiasm with, and a wonderful organization to raise money and support for.”

Recently, the FFAC has reached a new milestone. They were able to reach their goal of raising $2000, donating their first cheque to the SYO. At the moment, their next goal is $20,000. The plan is to expand the classes available by introducing spinning, swimming, weight lifting, healthy bake sales, and even a donation tab on their iphone app.

According to Wiebe, his experience in the development of FFAC has taught him many things. 

“My biggest takeaway from this whole experience so far is that the work of improving people’s health and quality of life is extremely rewarding and something I want to be doing for the rest of my life,” he said. “I believe the true purpose of life is to enjoy it, and help others enjoy theirs as much as possible. This is what I am trying to do through FFAC, one event at a time.”

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