NPNO Member Spotlight: Denali

Great job by all of the tribe members who showed up today for the PR Workout.  We know a lot of you were sore for the marathon (or in some cases multiple marathons) last week.  Thank you for coming and brining all of you positivity. We can’t wait to see everyone next week.

Positivity Award
Before turn it over to Denali, we want to give a special shout out to our positivity award winner today: Mary Martha!.  Mary Martha is just what you are looking for in a tribe member.  She comes and works hard, but no matter how hard it gets, she just can’t seem to wipe the smile off of her face.  She is an awesome tribe member and we are lucky to have her as part of our group!  Thank you Mary Martha for your positivity!

Now, as we do every month on PR Wednesday, is our NPNO Member Spotlight.  This month the spotlight is on NPNO loyal tribe member Denali:


My first day at November Project coincided with the three year birthday parties happening across the nation. So, I’m happy to say I showed up just in time to contribute to the big count. As I walked up to the group, I saw over a hundred adults shouting and jumping in front of a news camera. Unreal against the backdrop of the Superdome.

I had the pleasure of connecting with Cameron, Kate, Will, and Preston before ever even showing up to take part because of the strong alignment in their volunteer work to Youth Run NOLA. YRNOLA is an after-school program that empowers youth through running. I’m currently the Executive Director. We use training for and running local races as a way to help local kids develop leadership and a commitment to healthy living.

So I walked up to the group that November morning, knowing a bit, but still floored by the level of energy exuding from the pack at 6:00am. I had convinced a fellow Youth Run NOLA employee, Rob, to show up, too. Convinced probably isn’t the right word since he is training for an ultra and loves stuff like this. He later won the positivity award, which is still a huge deal in the office. But that first morning he was there ahead of me. And as soon as I hopped in next to him in the huddle, he grabbed my shoulders and stated with so much joy “This is like Youth Run NOLA for adults!” We’d been there for two minutes. What I’ve learned in my two months or so of workouts with November Project since is that initial reaction from Rob could not be more accurate. And given that I spend all my hours thinking about our non-profit and obviously believe in what we do pretty strongly, I certainly can’t think of a higher compliment.

There are easy comparisons, like we do a lot of shouting and jumping, too, before workouts, too (slightly less cursing….) (31 seconds)

But there’s a lot beyond the shared early-morning energy.

Youth Run NOLA – despite what some people think from its name – isn’t all about running. Last time I asked a kid about his favorite part of Youth Run NOLA, he said “My team. And all the music and dancing at the races.” Youth Dance NOLA would be awesome, but never have we asked our coaches to choreograph. But that’s part of the beauty of what we do. We have over 250 kids working really hard to cross a finish line; some of them love running, some of them walk consistently, but they all work hard together. Completing a 5k is hard for a lot of our youth and families, running a 10K is even harder, training for and crossing the finish line of a half marathon is harder still. Everyone is working toward something that at one time seems insurmountable.

Just so happens – that’s my favorite part about November Project, too

One of my closest friends lives in Boston and has been telling me about NP since she first went last year. She ran track and cross-country in college so usually when she tells me about workouts I should do, I start questioning her immediately and remind her of our differing abilities. But I could only hear about NP from so many people before I had to #justshowup.


So, much like a Youth Run NOLA participant who’s never exercised may feel when arriving to a first practice, I showed up for NPNO a bit nervous that I wouldn’t keep up. Sometime between the chanting and jumping and hugging and motivational yelling (all of which happened before I’d fully warmed up), I knew Rob was right. This is like Youth Run NOLA for adults. That maintained throughout the workout when I felt the greatest competition only with myself and excessive support from others. NP is hard, for sure. But it’s welcoming and accessible. And that’s all I can ever hope to be true for Youth Run NOLA. It’s about pushing yourself. And pushing yourself toward your own goal that seems near impossible. Like, for me, the day we started with 20 minutes of stairs. NP proves to be an individual commitment that’s sustained almost entirely by the love and support of a deeply caring team.

If asked what is my favorite part of NP, I would have to echo the answer of the YRNOLA kid I asked about our organization: “My team.”


As clear advocates for free health and exercise, I’d been introduced to the NP leaders because of the mission alignment. Youth Run NOLA was founded on the principal that running is accessible.  Any one of our kids – regardless of background, income, athletic ability, experience – can participate and complete a race. And be really proud of that.

We teach our runners, as we teach the community around us at races, that runners are made not born, and that running is a lifestyle. Seems to me like NP does just that – spreads the positive addiction to healthy living.  And the joys of and rewards gained from working hard to accomplish a challenging goal together.

I’m grateful for YRNOLA Board Member Michael, and Running Buddy and 504k Committee Members Amany and Ann Elise, supporters Deepak and Jessica – all committed members of the NPNO tribe, for helping bring these two worlds together. And now staff members Rob and Tom and teacher-coach Taylor who make it out. It’s all coming together. YRNOLA parents will workout with NPNO in 2015. More of our coaches will be show up. The feelings and energy of both groups are too aligned for the overlap not to grow.

And we hope NPNO tribe members show up to run with our kids, too.

We’re gearing up for the 504k – our Race for All New Orleans. This unique race through the Marigny and Bywater is a community event. Any kid who wants to run the race can come run. Any family member of a Youth Run NOLA runner can come run. Any competitive runner or NPNO tribe member can come run. Anyone can come run. We use the word “run” more as a metaphor for owning your life and healthy decisions in Youth Run NOLA, and on February 8, we want everyone to come run this city.

The 504k brings together all kinds of people from across the region to walk, jog, run (and apparently dance) together. There are prizes for top finishers. Cool ones, too. But it’s more along the NP motto of #justshowup. Wake up early and do something healthy with people you care about and people who care about you. Push yourself to cross the finish line and be proud that you made that happen. And you can guarantee there will be lots of hugs at the finish line.

504k Registration

Here’s another good one from NP enthusiast and super committed member, Deepak Saini.

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