Guest Post: Project Becoming Our Best by Teri Schmidt

By , May 26, 2017

This month, we have a piece from longtime LHH supporter and volunteer, Teri Schmidt, about her family’s experience organizing a ten month long campaign called Project Becoming Our Best. The campaign leveraged the family’s participation in IRONMAN Texas to raise money for Little Helping Hands and Doing Good Together and encourage family volunteerism. Teri’s campaign ended up raising $890 for LHH!

What do Little Helping Hands and training for a triathlon have to do with each other? That’s probably what many of my friends were wondering last July when our family shared the idea for Project Becoming our Best, which I introduced as “ten months focused on family volunteering and triathlon, chasing challenges that spread kindness and courage, as we train for IRONMAN Texas”.

Teri and her husband show off the inspiration their kids wrote on them prior to the race (left). Teri poses with her medal after completing IRONMAN Texas (right).

The fact is that when I signed up (yes, voluntarily) to spend 10 to 20 hours a week training to race IRONMAN Texas (which included a 2 mile swim, a 112 mile bike race and a 26 mile run), it wasn’t because it was a lifelong dream of mine or because I excelled in any of the three sports. I was new to all of them and none of the sports were particularly fun for me. When I made the decision to train, it was because I wanted a challenge. But I knew I wanted it to be more than a personal physical challenge; I wanted it to be a family experience in “becoming our best.” Combining our commitment to honing our physical strength with a renewed focus on family volunteering and philanthropy was a perfect mix!

Teri’s husband and children running during IRONMAN Texas

That’s where Little Helping Hands came in. When we moved to Texas five years ago, I was thrilled to learn that there was an organization in Austin focused on family volunteering. You see, I was blessed as a child to have parents who taught me about the worth of each human being. In a world with so much fear, anger and division, I believe that providing our children with opportunities to connect with those who are different from them is one of our greatest tools. However, the busy life of a family with two working parents and kids involved in multiple extracurriculars caught up with us, and our focus on family volunteering had slipped. Following the work, stories and growth of Little Helping Hands kept me inspired and motivated throughout the years, even though we weren’t able to participate directly in LHH because we live over two hours away. I love how LHH supports the growth of empathy and community-building from a very young age through adulthood and incorporated those values into our family life.

The Schmidt family poses in their kitchen with their Project Becoming Our Best race outfits

It turns out that the inspiration that LHH provided by volunteering actually had a lot of parallels to our race training! Both taught us how taking small steps outside of our comfort zones could add up to something big. For instance, when we visited Regent Care Senior Center for the first time, we were all nervous about what to say to the seniors. However, once we got started and the kids saw how easily they were able to bring joy, my reluctant visitors didn’t want to leave. We took another risk volunteering at a community garden called Veggie Village, even though I have a bit of a brown thumb. My daughter loved working with the plants, though, and we had a great time. Similarly, even though I was nervous each time I got into the pool, each practice brought me closer to feeling more comfortable and more skilled.

Teri’s daughter and son volunteering at Operation Pets Alive

We also discovered new interests through both volunteering and training! One of the kids’ favorite projects was helping out Operation Pets Alive by spreading love to the animals who were up for adoption. They’re very eager to volunteer with them next time. Likewise, I actually began to enjoy running as I spent more and more time on long runs outside, and especially when the kids came along as our “support crew.”

The Schmidt family sorts hangers at Society of Samaritans thrift store

Finally, through both, we learned that monotonous (and boring and sometimes even painful) activities done for the right purpose can be enjoyable. The kids didn’t necessarily enjoy sorting hangers for Society of Samaritans’ thrift store, but they did find joy in talking to other volunteers and seeing the impact their efforts made. In the same way, the LONG miles on our bikes every Saturday were not exactly fun, but they did help us be successful on a difficult ride on race day.

Thank you, Little Helping Hands, for inspiring us to become our best!