There is a group of women breathing new life into one of the oldest forms of exercise mankind knows: running. The Stroller Warriors® make running look easy, probably because they’re having so much fun together. This month marks their fifth year of existence; the Stroller Warriors held their first workout at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune January 10, 2010. Today their enthusiasm for fitness, unbreakable bonds, and passion to help charitable organizations has spread from North Carolina to 18 chapters around the world, including Japan, the UK, and Germany. “We find that as soon as our loyal members receive orders, they inquire about the availability of a chapter at their new duty station,” Stroller Warriors Running Club Founder and CEO Stephanie Geraghty said. “They utilize the new chapter to get answers to all of their moving questions and obtain useful resources before they even arrive. Our goal is to continue this trend and reach as many installations as we can, so the members have this support network waiting for them. We have composed a detailed guidebook and established an extensive mentoring program to ensure our chapters are completely cohesive. We want each chapter to be a familiar and approachable resource no matter where the families move.”
“The beginning of the year provides a time of reflection and renewed goal setting. The best way to enable success in meeting new goals is to surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Stroller Warriors provides an ideal environment for goal setting because the entire team supports each other with enthusiasm and equality, no matter if your goal is to race a 5K or complete a marathon,” Geraghty said. She and her fellow 6,000+ runners worldwide are dedicated to more than staying fit. They’re dedicated to helping others in more ways than one. First, there is the obvious: providing support for military spouses. “On any given day, a significant number of our members are enduring a separation from their spouse due to deployments and other career obligations,” Geraghty said. “This is a monumental task, especially for single parents, but they find solace in dedicating time to Stroller Warriors and helping charitable causes.”
The Stroller Warriors have been pillars for one another to lean on during tough deployments, pregnancies and life changes. But they help more than each other…they support charitable causes and other spouses outside of their club who are in need. The flagship in North Carolina has contributed $60,000 to charity and their mission is far from over. “Stroller Warriors Camp Lejeune will host our fourth annual fundraiser for Cure SMA, in honor of my son Cole who has Type 2/3 Spinal Muscular Atrophy. We engaged worldwide involvement this past year with a virtual 5K and 3ELove awareness t-shirts and have raised $17,000 to date. Our 18 chapters all engaged in their own community outreach endeavors, from bake sales and food drives to races and fundraisers for specific families and charitable organizations,” Geraghty said.
To celebrate their fundraising goals, their chapter coordinators, members, and the incredible staff (who does not draw a salary, by the way) Geraghty and her team plan to update their blog and guidebook, as well as revamp their worldwide mileage tracking program, ‘Ran to Afghanistan’ with a brand new theme and logo this year. “The mileage tracking program grew more successful in 2014 because we opened it up to everyone, including our family, friends, and fans from afar. We love this opportunity to connect with civilians and motivate runners from afar even though they are unable to participate with a local Stroller Warrior’s chapter in person. We hope to double participation in 2015. We are striving to provide increased ongoing mentoring with our current chapter coordinators to ensure continuous growth and consistency.”
Stroller Warriors is completely free to join and the only cash collected is in the form of donations for various charities. So though no member is ever forced to pay for anything, each walks away with something worth millions in the eyes of a military spouse who knows how stressful this lifestyle can be. Each member walks away from each Stroller Warrior event with a sense of support…and friends not only of their own, but oftentimes for their little ones too. “Our children also become playmates and look forward to each other’s company, chattering between strollers, and then chasing each other at the playground,” Geraghty said. “School-age children love the club as well and we often see them cheering on the sidelines at races or competing in the events themselves. They attend workouts during summer vacation and ride their bicycles and scooters to accompany their parents getting in some valuable exercise. Stroller Warriors operates as a positive and welcoming community and people feel that from the first workout they attend.”
Though Garaghty is driving force behind the Stroller Warriors movement, she insists on praising her 33 chapter coordinators and more than 170 assistants and volunteers scattered around the world. “They work countless hours and do not receive any kind of pay since this is a free club. They do this out of the goodness of their hearts, which is part of why they work so hard and do such a phenomenal job. They want to do it and are happy to do it. They are not only impacting Stroller Warriors, they also support and influence the surrounding community,” she said. So whether or not your New Year’s resolution is to get fit, try something new or make a difference in the lives of others…it sounds like hitting the pavement with the Stroller Warriors may be a good place to start.