BY ZOE MEGGERT
Sam Kremke knew that he wanted to run his first marathon this year, but he couldn’t have anticipated the incredible results – both of his race and of the charitable donation campaign he launched alongside his training. On May 13, Kremke completed the Addison Oaks Challenge marathon. “Completed” is putting it lightly – Kremke came in first with a time of 3 hours and 32 minutes. He beat the second-place runner by a several minute gap, which is incredible in marathon race timing. Not bad for a 20-year-old who’s still in college.
More importantly, however, Kremke managed to raise almost $900 for Planned Parenthood through a charitable donation campaign he launched to coincide with his training. “I wanted to incorporate a charitable cause from the get-go,” says Kremke, “and Planned Parenthood is an amazing organization. They provide both basic and life-saving services in an arena where not a lot of other options exist, and while they currently receive federal funding it’s not a guarantee in the future.”
Kremke came out as gay in 2013, during his sophomore year of high school. Through his high school career and onward, he has experienced negative interactions, homophobia, and other forms of adversity. Running has always been a source of peace and refuge for Kremke. He has been running since elementary school, and has continued to return to the sport over the years. He ran on Northville High School’s cross country team, and has run several races over the course of his college career.
However, completing a marathon had always been on his bucket list. In a runner’s world, the marathon is kind of an elusive distance. It’s doable, but long enough to be intimidating, especially if you’re training to get a qualifying race time for one of the “big marathons” in the following year. Originally, Kremke had planned to run the marathon to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon.
While that remained his goal, he saw this race as an opportunity to do something more for an organization he feels passionately about. “I wanted this to be about something more than my own personal betterment,” he says.
Racing for charity is a popular concept. For Kremke, it fit perfectly into his already-set routine and plans. This, he believes, is how volunteering and charitable work should be incorporated into your lifestyle.
“Whenever you’re volunteering, pick something you genuinely care about – whatever that means to you,” says Kremke. Personally, he organizes his charitable work and volunteering around organizations whose primary purpose is to defend the rights of all people – specifically those whose rights are being infringed on. Kremke likes to lend his support to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. However, Kremke also urges people to get involved in their local communities. Given the recently elected administration, he believes it’s critical as individuals in this nation to find the cause you’re passionate about and pour your energy into it.
“Now more than ever, marginalized groups are having their rights stepped on or taken away. With the new administration, it feels that this is more than just ongoing risk that these groups are facing. They’re actually being targeted,” says Kremke. “A lot of people have a sense of hopelessness, and while that’s understandable, a positive thing going forward is to get involved with charities and do volunteer work that means something to you. Doing something locally that can be worked into your day-to-day life can make a positive impact not just once, but daily.”
Kremke advocates people getting involved in their local communities and finding something that feels natural to you as an individual. In the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas, where Kremke spends most of his time, he likes the idea of supporting the Ruth Ellis Center, an organization that provides short and long-term shelter and a safe space for LGBTQ at-risk or homeless youth. Since coming out in 2013, Kremke believes it’s important to turn around and give back to individuals in the LGBTQ community that aren’t necessarily receiving support that everyone needs during the coming out and coming of age process.
After attending the Ruth Ellis Center orientation, he’s very excited to submit his volunteer application. Kremke also believes that Freedom House Detroit, a temporary home for refugees and those fleeing persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States, is an excellent local option where people can get involved.
“Do something through a channel you’re comfortable with,” says Kremke. “There are small groups and larger organizations made available to us through school, our places of work, and our communities. Find what you’re passionate about and pursue those opportunities.” Kremke encourages individuals in his generation to get involved, as well. Despite the sense of overwhelm or hopelessness they may feel, he insists that it’s important to get active now. It may not feel like your small effort is having a worldwide impact, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t being noticed.
“These organizations run primarily on small, consistent donations and volunteers,” says Kremke. “So, if you’re worried about raising a ton of money or taking a month off school or work to volunteer with an organization that inspires you, let that go.
Being there to volunteer with regularity or donating $5-$10 a month to a group you feel strongly about supporting is actually more effective and more achievable.”
It’s true that in the Trump-era many individuals are feeling an all-consuming sense of panic and dread. This fear-based reaction is the psychological result of being in a constant state of shock. Psychologists across the U.S. have seen the results of the constant state of political upheaval in the current administration, and they are adamantly advocating for self-care. Kremke’s methods of getting involved in your local community, especially with an organization, group, or cause you feel passionately about, is a method of self-care that encourages your own stability as well as the betterment of those around you.
By selecting local groups, such as Kremke’s favorites Ruth Ellis Center or Freedom House Detroit, you’re making it easier on yourself to be more consistent with your time and funds. “If ongoing volunteer work or donations isn’t your thing, consider getting involved in a conference or event,” says Kremke. He recommends the Allied Media Conference hosted by Allied Media Projects in Detroit this June 15-18.
The conference is intended to be a diverse, inclusive group working towards holistic, creative solutions to world problems. Making your voice heard and your support known can only happen through participation and involvement. Kremke has provided an inspiring example of ways we can all incorporate charitable support into routines that may already exist in our lives.
“For me it was about doing something bigger than my own self-interest,” says Kremke, “I’m extremely thankful to everyone who donated, and for all of those out there who supported my cause.”