A Calorie Burned Is a Penny Earned
A recent addition to the Sandhills area is raising money for charity one calorie at a time. Daniella Fragoso Reilly, a 30-year-old nursing school student and bartender at Dugan's Pub downtown, recently raised more than $4,000 for the local charity organization BackPack Pals.
And while helping out underprivileged kids in Moore County, Reilly found the perfect motivation to do a little self-improvement of her own -- by making each calorie count.
"The idea hit me one day when I was working out at Gold's Gym in Southern Pines, just after I enrolled in the nursing program," Reilly says. "I was panting, sweating away in the gym, wondering why someone wasn't paying me for all of this hard work, and the idea just grew from there."
Soon after her endorphin-inspired epiphany on the elliptical machine, Reilly began talking about her idea to friends, family members and coworkers at Dugan's, including the owner, Alan Riley, a longtime friend of BackPack Pals.
The idea was, for every calorie she burned at the gym during one month, Reilly's 50 sponsors would pledge one penny for each calorie logged on her daily count sheet.
With support and backing from Gold's Gym, Fitness Concepts and Dugan's Pub, and the blessing of the Moore County Schools Volunteer Program, Reilly began logging in some serious gym time and spent the entire month of June shaping up and counting pennies.
She even capped off the contribution drive with a special event at Dugan's Pub on the last night.
Thanks to a borrowed elliptical machine from Gold's Gym, some generous pub patrons and musical motivation by way of DJ Crowd Control, Reilly burned 1,200 calories in one last two-hour beneficial burst, putting her total sum to 10,000 calories burned -- and over $4,000 earned.
This isn't Reilly's first run-in with BackPack Pals since she moved to Aberdeen from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., almost two years ago with her husband, Oliver, an Aberdeen police officer.
"I was hired at Dugan's Pub just two days after we moved, and about a month after I started, Mr. Riley came up to me one night with a box in his hand," says Reilly. "He set me right outside of the pub that night, collecting donations for BackPack Pals, and by the time we closed we had collected $1,200."
Reilly was also a participant in Riley's local charity golf tournament. Naturally, when she approached Alan Riley with her plan, he was eager to run with it. It was time to contact BackPack Pals.
What began as a chance viewing of an Internet article regarding impoverished school children in the Ozark Mountains quickly grew into a personal crusade for Linda Hubbard.
Hubbard, who is in charge of the volunteer program for Moore County Schools, founded BackPack Pals in December 2005,with seed money from a generous donation by St. Joseph's of the Pines.
"Our goal at BackPack Pals is to get food to every child in Moore County who goes without over the weekends," she says. "We provide school supplies and food to kids in this district whose best meals are often the ones they get during the week at our public schools."
Initially, the volunteers at BackPack Pals furnished food for 25 children in need at only one local school. But in almost three years, the organization has expanded, more than 150 volunteers helping out students in 21 different area schools.
"BackPack Pals volunteers do everything from collect food donations to drop off filled backpacks at the schools, basically anything we could ask of them," says Hubbard.
Many local businesses and civic groups have also been generous to the program, says Hubbard. FirstHealth, Sandhills Teen Challenge, the Kiwanis Club of Southern Pines, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and, of course, Alan Riley and Dugan's Pub, have all contributed either time or money on an annual basis to BackPack Pals.
Mark Packard, the chief executive officer of the local BB&T branch, also regularly donates on behalf of the bank, and the Women of Seven Lakes group has hosted a charity golf tournament three years running, with all proceeds going the Pals.
In addition, according to Hubbard, over 50 local churches are also getting in on the act, with food donations of 40 or 50 items weekly.
"We've got a lot of nice teachers and school employees keeping an eye out at the schools for us," Hubbard adds.
And it's working. Between September 2008 and April 2009, Linda Hubbard and the Pals received 13,845 pounds of food.
But even Hubbard had no idea how charitably lucrative Daniella Reilly's one-woman philanthropic fitness mission had been.
"Mrs. Hubbard met with Alan and me one day at Dugan's, after it was over, and I had all of the contributions I had raised in a envelope," says Reilly. "I'm pretty sure the final amount, which was over $4,000, caught her by surprise."
Linda Hubbard put it this way: "I was totally shocked. To think that she could take the initiative and raise such an impressive sum in one month alone it's phenomenal."
As for future plans with the organization, both Linda Hubbard and Daniella Reilly would love to turn this into an annual undertaking.
"I would absolutely love to do this again," says Reilly. "The experience of seeing the community come together around what I was doingit was exhilarating."
However, Reilly is quick to share the praise with some important people who kept pace with her along the way.
"I really need to thank Mike Valentino, Mary Kay Hester, Mila Fick Harris and all of the employees at Gold's Gym in Southern Pines for making this event happen," she says. "Also, I've got to thank my personal trainer, Mike Harrison of Fitness Concepts, for helping me keep it in gear; my husband, Oliver, who never let me give up or slack off; and my sister, Nina, who is my hope and inspiration."
Thanks to Reilly, and the selfless dedication of programs like BackPack Pals, there's a little more hope for the children here in Moore County, and a healthy dose of inspiration for us all.
John Stone is a local freelance writer.
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