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Fit for a Purpose

Seeing through the Fog

By Jake Vermillion

There’s a place deep within each of us that’s like a well to draw inspiration from—it is full of moving feelings such as those you get from special moments in time or the memories of a loved one. These feelings stir our passions and push us toward greatness, fragility, and one another.

To reach the well, many of us have to push through a thick fog of fear that surrounds it. That fear clouds our vision as we struggle to glimpse our deepest desires. Many of us wish to be known, to make a difference, and to play a part in something greater than ourselves. Over the past eighteen months, I’ve found it takes courage to push through fear, it takes conviction to persist toward the things that inspire us, and it takes a community to help navigate the course that will take your passion and turn it into results.

Courage. Conviction. Community.

Those three things have allowed me—and so many others—to draw from the well of inspiration and to experience the joy that flows from making a difference and playing a part in something greater than any one person. That joy inspired me to join Fit For Hope, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida that works to help its members by promoting physical fitness with events and challenges so that they can, in turn, help others through charitable donations, spreading awareness, building a better community at home and abroad, and inspiring more people to do the same.

I haven’t always had the drive to pursue these things. I still don’t have it all the time. It ebbs and flows, but that’s what makes having it—even just for a while—so beautiful, meaningful, and empowering. I hate the days when my drive recedes into the distance. But, when it does, I have a constellation of peers to look to for guidance, inspiration, and assurance. That’s what Fit For Hope is all about.

My journey began with a challenge from a friend: to get off my lazy behind and do something not just for myself, but also for someone else. I decided to bike one hundred miles in a day for women trafficked into sexual slavery. When confronted with the reality of human trafficking, the pervasiveness of sexual exploitation, and the horrors of modern-day slavery, I was compelled to accept the challenge to push my body past its admittedly shallow limits in hopes of raising awareness of and gathering resources for the fight against this incredible injustice.

For months, I emptied myself on the bike, painstakingly whittling my asthmatic frame into the body of an athlete left gasping for breath, face up, on the sunlit grass (there’s a video to prove it).

With time, the novelty of learning to turn inspiration into results fathered a need to do so again and again. It became an obsession that drove me onward, and my ambition began slowly to strengthen my ability. With each turn of the pedals, the miles melted into each other. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and longed to escape the pain in my muscles but also dreaded the discomfort that I knew would accompany the completion of my challenge. Would my inspiration wane when I finished it? Reflecting on it now, I can appreciate the fear I wallowed in leading up to the day of my official one-hundred-mile ride. But the toughness I had bought with the sweat of a thousand practice miles dealt its dividends—the weight of a venture unfulfilled was lifted as I crossed the finish line at Joachim Street and Dolphin Avenue.

Ducking into a back alley, away from the noise of celebratory beers and finisher photos, I stopped pedaling for the first time in what felt like an eternity. I savored the relief of knowing I’d dispensed with a second finish line—the only one that mattered: playing a part in restoring freedom and dignity to the imprisoned, anguished, and abused.

I savored the relief of knowing I’d dispensed with a second finish line—the only one that mattered: playing a part in restoring freedom and dignity to the imprisoned, anguished, and abused.

I didn’t even recognize the real impact of crossing that second finish line until months later, when the workers meeting the needs of these women revealed that the amount of money my colleagues and I had raised—thanks to the incomprehensible generosity of our supporters and partners—was the exact amount needed to fulfill their dream of opening an emergency shelter. At that moment, the gravity of this endeavor—to run, bike, or swim for something greater—crushed me. I would never have believed that the pursuit of something so fleeting as fitness could leave an enduring impact on those desperate to have their wounds healed and hope renewed.

That day will live long in my memory, so much so that I’m now partnered with other men and women who share the same commitment to face their fears and visit their wells of inspiration again and again. We gladly suffer through yet another ride or run so that others might not have to bear far greater burdens alone.

Through Fit For Hope, I’ve been fortunate to witness the extraordinary courage of others who test the limits of empathy, fumble about in the muddy depths of humility, and push against the bounds of selflessness all for a chance to behold the transformative power of genuine compassion. This group of active and aspiring athletes has demonstrated purpose through pain, endurance over apathy, and others above self. Our members have run marathons to help house families affected by Hurricane Michael, exercised for the first time in ten years to help a single mom provide for her kids, and biked thousands of miles to care for victims of domestic abuse.

When that friend challenged me to visit my well, to fight through the fear, and to live in alignment with the deepest desires of my heart, he did me a far greater favor than I could ever have imagined.

Let me pay the favor forward.

If you long to experience something so meaningful it’s gratifying to empty yourself in pursuit of it; if you long to be counted among thousands working toward a common, selfless goal; if you long to know the fulfillment that comes with helping to redeem others from hopelessness, take the challenge.

Each of us has what we need to draw from our well of inspiration. The only question is this: will you?

— V —

Get started today by finding your courage, living your convictions, and multiplying your community at FitForHope.com.

Jake Vermillion is an endurance sports enthusiast, founding member of Fit For Hope, and organizer of the Bear Claw Classic Trail Run for Freedom. Jake and his wife, Hannah, live in South Walton, Florida, where they attend Redeemer 30A Church, provide respite care to foster children, and volunteer with Communities of Transformation.

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