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Merritt Athletic Clubs strives to be more than a health club. “We like to call our clubs the third home,” said Donyel Cerceo, the company’s marketing director. “Our members have a home, their work, and then they have our clubs.”
The company achieves the goal of making Merritt Athletic Clubs a “third home” by not only providing a place to get in shape and achieve fitness goals, but also creating a place where members can give back locally and foster a strong sense of community.
Over the years, Merritt Athletic Clubs has made it a priority to get members involved in local causes. One of the clubs’ larger events includes Pink Month, which takes place in October. The event raises money for the American Cancer Society, specifically for breast cancer. Another popular event includes outreach for the Movember Foundation, which raises awareness around prostate cancer throughout the month of November.
According to Cerceo, the club encourages members and the local community to get involved in fundraising efforts by hosting events both inside and outside of the club.
For example, Merritt Athletic Clubs put on a class at a local mall, which cost $25 to attend (proceeds went to a charity). They partnered with Les Mills, who brought in an instructor to teach the class. Events inside the club include a DJ Bootcamp and an indoor cycling fundraiser.
And that is just the beginning. Merritt Athletic Clubs hosts similar fundraising events to give back to the community all year long. “In May we do our big ALS month and we raise money for ALS in similar ways,” added Cerceo. “We host paid group fitness classes and we take donations. Then in February we are going to start supporting the American Heart Association through the Go Red month. We will be doing similar fundraising classes, selling red dresses in the club, getting member donations and having big Go Red parties.”
Getting healthy and giving back to the community sounds like a win, win. Cerceo explained members love the fundraising events. They are a great opportunity to build camaraderie among members, while showing support for the local community.
“It is not only the group fitness people that get involved,” said Cerceo. “Our other members really love it too, and they really feel like we care about the community. We care about the things they care about and they really see that, and that is why they love being a part of our clubs.”
When it comes to giving back to the community, Cerceo suggested listening to your members. They might have a cause that could be perfect for your club to support. “We had a member at one of our clubs that ran a police race to raise money for fallen officers,” said Cerceo. “We always try to get behind them, whether we donate money, donate products and services or we get a group of members to go cheer them on.”
Of course, when you start hosting events, it is important to prepare for the unexpected. There will always be challenges, and it is rare that everything will go according to plan. “There are things that are out of our control,” explained Cerceo. “For example, our big ALS fundraiser was an outdoor event and it rained that day, so we had to postpone it. Then it rained again on that day so we had to move it inside the club. There are always challenges like that, but I think when everyone is so committed to the greater good, we can handle it and it gets done. Everyone has the same goal, even our members, so we work together and it all works out.”
Finally, don’t get discouraged. Like Cerceo explained, everything will not go perfectly the first time around, but it is essential to keep trying. “I think one piece of advice is to stick with it,” she added. “I think people will appreciate what you do, rather than a one-off event. Just because something didn’t produce a lot of new members for you, that is not really why you do it — we focus on working with our communities. Our communities have made us who we are, so we want to give back to them and show our members that they are important to us.”