Blog post

Company fitness challenge raises funds to benefit people with kidney disease

Employees at Heart+Mind Strategies participated in a fitness challenge to fundraise for a charity of the winners' choosing. We were delighted when Marjie Sands' team won and selected AKF.

February may often bring a post New Year's resolution fitness slump for many, but not for the employees at Heart+Mind Strategies! The boutique research-based consultancy created a February fitness challenge to motivate its employees to stay active, help bond the team (most of whom work remotely) and raise money for the winning team's chosen cause.

Marjie and Steve Sands at the beach

We were delighted when Marjie Sands' team won and selected the American Kidney Fund (AKF).

"I first decided to donate to AKF when I found out my husband Steve had kidney disease and needed to look for a living kidney donor," said Marjie.

Steve was diagnosed in 2017 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a disease that causes scarring on the filters in the kidneys. Unfortunately, Steve's disease progressed to kidney failure in 2021. He is now on dialysis three days a week while he waits to receive a kidney transplant.

"This cause is personally relevant to me, not only for my husband's need to find a living kidney donor, but for all others who face kidney disease each day," Marjie said. "I have seen both family and friends that face different types of kidney disease and issues — and through this challenge I learned about several others in the company that are also facing kidney problems. It's something that comes up and you don't even think about it."

Marjie's coworker, Johanna Englund, first suggested the fitness challenge. Johanna is a member of Heart+Mind Strategies' Community Connections team, a group at the organization dedicated to building community and culture for their workforce. This fits into the organization's larger mission and vision.

Johanna Englund and her partner finishing a marathon

How did it work? Employees volunteered to participate in the challenge and were randomly assigned to one of six teams. Throughout the month, participants tracked the number of minutes they exercised — and any exercise counted! Johanna and her partner ran a race while Cara Boxer did kickboxing (pictured). At the end of the month, the team with the most minutes was the winner. To participate, each person contributed $25 to a pool to be donated to a charity of the winning team's choosing. There was also a contribution from the company, and employees were able to donate a higher amount if they wanted to do so.

"There are several kidney organizations to choose from, but I wanted my money to be used to its fullest potential," Marjie explained. "So, when I learned that the majority of AKF's money is spent on the cause itself and not on administration, I spoke with my team and we selected them to receive the prize money from Heart+Mind."

When the challenge finished, Heart+Mind Strategies was pleasantly surprised when donations continued.

"Once we announced the winning charity, a lot of the people who had not contributed donated anyway because it's such a great cause and to show support to me and my husband!" said Marjie.

"At Heart+Mind, we believe in the power of choice, which means we champion the human reality in pursuing life's decisions. For us, this goes beyond our research and consulting services," said Marjie. "We choose to work together to help each other improve our health (mental, emotional, physical, etc.) in ways that also bring options to life for other people. This effort accomplished both in a big way!"

In total, Heart+Mind Strategies donated $1,300 to AKF. We are incredibly grateful to the organization, especially Marjie and her team, for choosing to help people with kidney disease.


Meredith Deeley

Meredith Deeley is the communications specialist at the American Kidney Fund.