by CINDY M. CRANMER
A Rockford woman has put together an organization that is helping athletes come to the aid of abandoned and orphaned children worldwide while doing the activities that they enjoy.
Rebecca Cruttenden, Team Orphans founder, expanded the organization nationwide in February.
Team Orphans also partners with organized events. They are an official charity partner for the Grand Rapids marathon, half marathon and relay on Sunday, Oct. 21, as well as the 5K and 10K events on Saturday, Oct. 20.
“It’s a charity campaign for athletes,” Cruttenden said. “There was nothing I could see out there as a benefit for adoption and orphans.”
She added, “Anybody picks a race they want to do. It can be biking, walking, running, a triathlon. They set a fundraising goal and 100 percent goes toward child adoption grants.”
They work with Brittany’s Hope, a Pennsylvania-based organization helping unite special needs children and families throughout the United States, who want to adopt but are burdened by the cost.
Special needs children means kids older than the age of two, sibling groups who want to remain together, to kids who have medical or other special needs.
International adoption costs about $30,000 and there are 153 million orphans. Domestic adoptions cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
Cruttenden was a 2003 grant recipient when she and her husband, Tom, got their children who were three, four and five. Rosa is now 12, Andre 13 and Sasha 14.
Brittany’s Hope has helped 350 children be adopted through grant assistance.
About $13,000 has been pledged from 33 team members in 12 different states since February.
Brittany’s Hope gives grants primarily to seven different adoption agencies. Bethany Christian Services is one of the larger agencies they work with.
Cruttenden, who has raised more than $17,000 personally for Brittany’s Hope in the past two years, will compete in a third Ironman race in November 2012.
“When I was in Texas for Ironman, I was excited about raising money. I couldn’t find anyone else who was doing it for a cause,” Cruttenden said. “It’s a huge, huge commitment to do an Ironman. God put it on my heart to give them a cause.”
An Ironman is 140.6 miles of biking, swimming and running that has to be completed by midnight.
“I couldn’t do the Ironman without a cause. I just couldn’t do it for my bucket list,” Cruttenden said.
“My personal goal is always going to be to raise $10,000 for every race I am in,” she added.
Cruttenden does 5K races and 25K races, but likes the bigger challenge. “I love a challenge. Having a cause helps me get through it.”
A minimum $50 donation is needed to cover the t-shirt and mailing expenses along with a small profit for Team Orphans. “We wanted it to be a very doable goal,” Cruttenden said. “My goal is to have 100 team members nationwide in 2012 and right now we have 33.”
Locally, Brittan Farmer, a Rockford graduate working on a doctorate, raised $685 in the Red, White and Blue Half Marathon; Dani Krooswyk, a Rockford/Comstock Park area resident, raised $685 in four mountain bike races; Danita Powell, a salon owner and Rockford resident, raised $60 in the Grand Rapids Triathlon and had Salon Solstice in Belmont donate $300 to Team Orphans; Akiko Flanders of Rockford raised $225 in the Bay Shores Marathon; Amanda Basel of Rockford raised $55 in the Fifth Third Riverbank Run; and Sue Bristol of Rockford raised $110 in the Fifth Third Riverbank Run.
Thirteen different businesses also have helped sponsor Team Orphans at various levels. A donation of $300 gets a mention on posters and ads, $500 includes mentions in letters, $1,000 includes a website listing, while a $2,500 sponsor is on t-shirts nationwide, and $5,000 means being in the nationwide brochures. Donations and sponsorships all are tax deductible.
Team Orphans launched nationwide with an anonymous company donating printing of 10,000 flyers.
“I’m in it for the long haul. It’s my passion helping kids get adopted,” Cruttenden said.
Volunteering 10 to 20 hours for Team Orphans and training 10 to 30 hours for the Ironman is “more than a full time position.”
“I love to swim, bike and run. God brought my love of these and wanting to help kids get adopted together,” Cruttenden said.
Sign up at www.teamorphans.com to raise donations, sponsor athletes or get more information about upcoming events. Cruttenden can be reached at Rebecca@teamorphans.com.
An upcoming fundraising event is Team Orphans Crazy Cycling Day at the Cycling XT studio on Plainfield Ave. in Grand Rapids. For 12 hours, there will be 144 cyclists on 12 teams doing one- to two-hour slots with a goal of raising $4,000 for Team Orphans.
“Supporting Team Orphans means that you can help more children experience the miracles of adoption and getting a family of their own,” said Cruttenden. “That’s our ultimate goal: to bring children home to families of their very own.”