Back on My Feet

By Christina Chapan

Sometimes we focus on getting new gear stuff but after taking a true look at our closets we find we basically have what we need for our chosen outdoor sport.  Here is a story about an organization that takes those with no home or vision and getting them back to a meaningful life.  Just as Luke  12:13-16 tells us about the rich owner we need to focus on the basics.  This organization Back on  My Feet does just that.

Back on My Feet

Back on My Feet is an organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives, resulting in employment and independent living. BoMF is a six-to-nine month program that works with individuals living in homeless facilities. 

 Anne Mahlum in 2007 was on one of her daily morning runs when she ran past a local homeless shelter in Philadelphia and realized her mission in life is to better others’ lives by volunteering and homeless running. The organization’s mission is not to create runners within the homeless population, but to use running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. Through dedication and hard work, the individuals experiencing homeless earn the opportunity to create a new road for themselves.   Running leads to personal transformation, and dedication to the program leads to access to training, employment, and housing resources.  Through community and corporate support, the program strives to change the face of homelessness.  Anne’s relationship with running began when she was 16, as it was her way of dealing with the unexpected situation of her dad’s struggle with a gambling addiction, which tore apart her family. While Anne could never find a way to help her dad, she found her own answers in the life lessons that surround running, such as taking things one step at a time and learning the value of being on difficult roads. Ten years later, Anne’s running led her past a homeless shelter on 12th and Vine in Philadelphia, where she began to develop a friendly, sarcastic rapport with some of the individuals staying there, who also reminded her of her dad. On one morning run she realized that running could benefit them in the same way that it helped her. She also felt in some way that she could vicariously help her father by helping them.

Back on My Feet partners with local facilities (shelters, missions, halfway houses) and they have residents make a commitment  to run three times a week in the early hours of the day with an optional run on Saturday. Running teams consisting of individuals experiencing  homelessness and community volunteers are formed at each facility. BMF has chapters  in Philadelphia, Baltimore,  Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, D.C., and Austin, Texas.

Running offers many strong and powerful lessons for life.  Running helps those experiencing homelessness and volunteers to take things one step at a time, go through adversities, and become better athletes and people. 

Back on My Feet’s approach focuses on the very profound and innate desire for all of us to feel encouragement, be recognized, be appreciated, and be supported. Members have an opportunity to redefine themselves not as homeless, but as hardworking and dedicated runners, friends, and teammates. Self-esteem also is built up as a vision for the future.

In the Next Steps phase of the program, residential members meet with BoMF Program staff to assess their current situation and develop a road map for an independent lifestyle. Members have access to educational and job training opportunities and, through dedication to the program, can apply for financial aid to help them move toward employment and more permanent housing. On average, nearly 75 percent of members are in the Next Steps phase of the program. Back on My Feet has received incredible media support, including attention from NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, and CNN. Back on My Feet started in Philadelphia in 2007 with 11 chapters nationwide. Forty-six percent of those experiencing homelessness move their lives forward with a job, housing, or both.

Presently, BoMF has helped over 2,400 homeless discover the joy of running; of those, 604 of them have found jobs, 401 have found housing, and 537 received help with job training.

Anne believes that running offers many strong and powerful lessons for life.  It tells us to take things one step at a time, that you can’t cheat life,  and when facing an uphill challenge, people can persevere or take the easy way around.  It tells us to move forward, be somewhere different, and arrive strong and often as a better version of ourselves.   For more information about BoMF please contact:

Chicago Back on My Feet
Back on My Feet

Christina Chapan is an ACE certified personal trainer, ISSA Youth Fitness Trainer, SCW, Sports Nutrition, AFAA certified group fitness teacher, fitness author, conference speaker and  special education elementary school teacher. If you are interested in learning more about Christina, please visit her website: Fit 4 Fun Kids' Fitness


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