A new way to celebrate: One burpee, two burpees, three burpees, four …
By Susan Pedwell
Maxence Renaud is turning 50 next August. Instead of throwing a midlife crisis party or buying himself a shiny new sports car, Renaud is raising funds for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Canada. His goal: Raise $5,000 by doing 50,000 burpees by his 50th birthday. That’s 137 burpees a day for 365 days.
“It’s not so much about the physical challenge but about putting myself in an uncomfortable situation every day, keeping in mind that it’s nothing compared to what any refugee must go through against their will on a daily basis,” says Renaud, a Montreal-based real estate broker.
A single photograph compelled Renaud to reach out and help families forced to leave their home, workplace and community. “A picture online of an immigrant woman with her three kids caught my eye,” he recalls. “The picture was striking, and I stepped into the woman’s shoes for a moment. Then I thought of my wife and our three sons.”
The powerful photo spurred Renaud to learn more about those who have been displaced. He learned that by the end of 2020 there were more than 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes. Some ran for their lives when insurgents broke through their front door. Others left their homeland because they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Renaud was eager to raise funds for the life-saving medical supplies, food and shelter that refugees and internally displaced people in need in countries such as Afghanistan, Venezuela and Syria. But he had no fundraising experience.
What the longtime fitness enthusiast did have was experience with the burpee, a full-body strength exercise which is a squat, followed by a plank, another squat and a stand. “The burpee is probably the most dreaded exercise in the fitness community,” says Renaud. “It tests your cardio, strength and endurance while at the same time challenging your mind.” By pairing the burpee with his milestone birthday, he began piecing together his first fundraiser.
Wanting to stand in solidarity with refugees, he set a couple of harsh rules for himself.
- The burpees must be done outside, not in a climate-controlled gym. “Doing them outdoors is more challenging and a reminder that this daily self-imposed discomfort is nothing compared to the living conditions of refugees worldwide. Rain or snow isn’t going to stop me.”
- Sessions must be performed daily – no excuses! “Burpees, especially the first 15 or 20, are not very pleasant to do,” he says. “Refugees have to go through their days regardless of whether or not it’s comfortable for them. I’ll do the burpees no matter what.”
- Each session must be posted on Instagram. Before starting his daily burpee regime, Renaud props up his phone and presses the “Video” button. “People will want to count the burpees to make sure I’m doing the full 137,” he explains.
Once Renaud established the parameters of what he calls his “50Kforfifty” campaign, he turned to UNHCR Canada to help set up a fundraising webpage on fundraise.unhcr.ca. On his page, people can donate directly to the UN Refugee Agency and be automatically emailed a tax receipt for their gift.
Renaud plans to email his webpage link to family, friends and the community he knows through his work in real estate. As the campaign progresses, he’ll contact local newspapers about his burpee commitment to increase coverage and donations.
As much as Renaud wants to raise crucial funds for refugees, he’s just as eager to raise awareness of one of the biggest humanitarian issues of our time.
“People need to be conscious of what is happening right now around the world,” he says. “People don’t realize what it must be like to be displaced. We have grown too used to our comforts.”
He hopes his campaign will inspire others to take action to help displaced people by supporting 50Kforfifty or by starting their own fundraiser.
Why not start your own fundraising campaign for the UN Refugee Agency? The “Team UNHCR Fundraising Toolkit” helps with everything from fundraising ideas, to event planning, to how to use social media to promote your fundraiser. It even offers sample tweets, and templates for thank-you letters to send to your donors and volunteers. It’s on UNHCR’s website.