Armed with steel jacks and a hat with his nickname "Sgt. Pushup," Army veteran Patrick Parker is on his way to doing 250,000 push-ups to raise money for the Maryland Food Bank to feed the hungry.
Parker got the idea for the fundraiser after he started approaching people earlier this year to change up their everyday routine and interact with others around them. The 48-year-old fitness enthusiast started the program "Stop, I Count," aiming to get people to stop and engage in an activity together, like dropping to the ground and doing push-ups while counting, playing jacks, or jumping double dutch.
"One day, I did 2,200 [push ups] in three hours," he said, adding that many people participated with him.
"I thought, 'I could change these push-ups into money, but what would be a great cause?'"
He decided to expand his "Stop, I Count" campaign in June to help the Food Bank, hoping to raise $250,000. Every dollar donated for an individual push-up would provide three meals toward the Food Bank's effort to fight childhood hunger, according to the Food Bank. If Parker reaches his goal, it would provide a total of 750,000 meals,
Parker, of Owings Mills, has aimed to tackle the goal by doing 3,000 push-ups a day, starting with his program's soft launch around June 10 until Sept. 30. (Parker officially kicked off the campaign with a party at Hotel RL on June 26.)
Working with companies like Mission BBQ and Chick-Fil-A and making friends with employees at a local Target, Parker said the campaign has been a joy and a challenge. He's nearing 50,000 pushups and his arms are sore, he said.
"I use a lot of Bengay and Icy Hot, and someone just told me last night to use an Epsom salt rub," he said.
Despite keeping up with his daily push-up requirement, Parker said he's only raised around $1,000 — the equivalent of 3,000 meals — but he's willing to put in more work.
"It's been disheartening, but it's still not going to stop me from doing 250,000 pushups," he said.
Parker said he's planning to host push-up parties and competitions between companies that donate money to the Food Bank, giving them incentives such as free lunch from local restaurants in order to raise more money. He'll also be participating in the Maryland Food Bank and Baltimore Orioles Food and Funds Drive Saturday, which will collect non-perishable food items and monetary donations throughout this weekend's series against the Chicago Cubs.
"Over the years, we've had many individuals show their support for the food bank in a variety of ways, but this may be one of the most unique campaigns we've come across," Maryland Food Bank CEO and president Carmen Del Guercio said in a statement. "Sargent Pushup has been an amazing ambassador for the Maryland Food Bank, and we're delighted to have him dedicate so much passion and energy to helping bring attention to the issue of hunger in Maryland."
Parker isn't losing sight of his mission.
"I need to help and feed the kids. I believe people deserve to eat more than just on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's," Parker said. "When you see someone hungry and you've experienced that yourself — I've been there — you want to help. … If it takes my arms being sore, my legs being sore, if it takes me running across America, if that's what it takes for no one to be hungry, I'll do it."
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