TikTok running challenge helped two high schoolers earn seven times their fundraising goal

By: Ali Phaneuf

Running a full 26-mile marathon might seem daunting to most people; but have you ever considered running one mile every hour for 24 hours? First inspired by a trend they saw on TikTok, high schoolers Emma Gavin and Rhiya Fisher decided not only to attempt the challenge, but they turned it into a fundraising opportunity for Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Why fundraise? And more importantly, why fundraise for Special Olympics MA? Emma and Rhiya have previously participated in Whiffles, a baseball program in Norwood for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Emma explained that one of their friends Gus, a participant in the program, is also an athlete for a local Special Olympics MA soccer league and encouraged her and Rhiya to volunteer.

“It’s so much fun playing with the athletes,” said Rhiya. “After seeing the Special Olympics program in our town, we felt like they could use some more money. I felt like helping them out would be nice.”

Not anticipating their running challenge to gain so much support; Emma and Rhiya had their sights set on a $500 fundraising goal. After just 24 hours of creating social media pages on Facebook and Instagram for their challenge, the two reached over $1,000.

“We honestly didn’t know anything about fundraising,” said Emma. “We just announced what we were doing on social media and asked people to Venmo us donations. A bunch of our family and friends reposted it to spread the word, and we were shocked at how fast we were raising money.”

The two ended up raising a massive $3,560 after just ONE week.

Since they chose to raise money via a running challenge, it’s safe to assume they’re active runners… right? Wrong. Both Rhiya and Emma said they wouldn’t consider themselves competitive runners and aren’t involved in any track programs at school.

“I actually think the longest distance I have ever run has been five miles,” said Emma. So this challenge definitely put them to the test mentally and physically.

“The next morning everything was just so sore, 11 AM was definitely the worst,” said Rhiya. “I thought running would be easy; but it definitely got harder as the night went on.”

What pushed them to keep going? Community and Special Olympics MA. Family, friends, and the Oliver Ames High School community came out to support the two in both their first and final mile of the challenge. So, in the middle of the night, when the miles became increasingly more difficult to complete and an initial 9-minute finish time crept up to 10-minutes; they kept remembering that they had a community waiting for them at their last mile.

“I would have been mad at myself if I quit; so, we just put on music and made playlists to get through the 24 hours,” said Emma.

“We felt great,” added Rhiya. “As soon as we finished that last lap; I just felt amazing. Knowing we raised so much money in just a week and that it’s going to a good cause, it felt good doing it and finishing it.

You can follow Emma and Rhiya’s accounts either on Facebook at RhiyaFisher EmmaGavin or on Instagram at @specialolympics_24hour.run Keep an eye out for more of their content—they’ve already hinted at another run next year!

Click here to see the TikTok Emma and Rhiya made after their 24 hour run!

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