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An Athlete with a Cause

Some fundraising athletes ask for contributions for every mile they run or walk.

Priscilla Tupper, RN, had something grander in mind.

She wanted friends, family, and colleagues to pitch in at least $5 for every half marathon and 100-mile bike ride she completed in 2013. The 60-year-old registered nurse had planned to run 11 half marathons and three century, or 100-mile, cycling rides to raise money for an orphanage in Haiti.

Tupper at the Davis Stampede, her first half marathon in 2013

But when the Kaiser Permanente Roseville chronic pain care manager started receiving donations, she was motivated to do more. She ended up completing 15 half marathons (13.1 miles), a 20-mile endurance run with a 3,000-mile elevation climb, three century rides, and one metric century ride, which is 100 kilometers (62 miles).

“I wasn’t even training anymore. I was just running,” she said. “I had no injuries. No problems. I was in the best shape I have ever been in.”

Tupper’s fundraising improved the lives of 92 children at Foyer Des Infants de Jesus Orphanage in Port au Prince as well as those at two other orphanages. She collected about $3,700, most of the donations came from Kaiser Permanente colleagues from across Northern California—58 of them, to be exact.

After each race, Tupper sent an email with a picture of the orphanage’s garden, and people responded with a donation ranging from $5 to $100. Through the nonprofit Rays of Hope, the money went toward the garden, and the bulk of it paid for a fence to protect the fruits and vegetables from menacing wild pigs and goats.

“I was proud of myself,” she said. “It was better than just writing a check.”

She said the kids take pride in the garden.

“These are the happiest kids. They have nothing, and they appreciate anything,” Tupper said.

Building a ‘Legacy’

Kaiser Permanente colleague Carolyn Readye, a psychiatric licensed clinical social worker at Kaiser Permanente North Valley, has been friends with Tupper since they were both hired at Kaiser Permanente in 1977. She accompanied her on some of her training rides and runs, and drives her to the airport when she goes on volunteer trips.

Tupper has volunteered domestically and internationally for several years, but it was the hungry, malnourished children in Haiti that moved her the most, Readye said.

“I told her that you gave them something sustainable,” Readye said. “That’s a legacy.”

The garden grows okra, quinoa, spinach, tomatoes, and cabbage, so now they have more than just a plate of white rice with a few beans to eat.

Tupper has been to Haiti four times. She first visited the orphanage in 2011, where the group improved a flood-prone sleeping area. On the other visits, she helped build the orphanage’s dormitory, and homes for families who had been living in dilapidated tents. She goes with suitcases full of supplies donated by Kaiser Permanente Roseville staff and other items she gathers from thrift shops, as well as Crocs shoes because they weather well in rain.

“Every time I go, there’s a little bit of improvement,” she said. “It’s slow.”

Next March, she returns there to start a garden near the homes she helped build last time.

Tupper acknowledges that the problems in Haiti are great, and her contributions are small.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “But anything we can do to prevent major illness or hospitalization is huge.”