In just under a month the Santa Monica Classic 5k/10k run will be held to benefit Heal the Bay. Sunday, May 19 will be a morning filled with anxiety, expectation, hopes, dreams, fears and a little euphoria when it’s all over.

I’m not a runner. One look at me and it’s clear that my people are designed to carry heavy loads over long distances at a plodding pace. I have the body of a man who marches, not runs. I rather lumber along. It’s always been that way. Even in high school when I was wrestling at a long lost 126 pounds I could not run. I am the end of the pack.

I’ve tried to learn to run. I’ve heard about this mythical “high” that people get. All I have ever had was sore knees, and a craving for a pizza. Large.

Put me on a bike, however, and I can ride for days, and I have. Years ago I raised funds for AIDS vaccine research with the Montana AIDS Vaccine Ride from someplace in Montana to some other place. Over six or seven days, while sleeping in a tent in a dirt field. It was great. I turned it into a three week road trip through Vegas, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Utah.

The founder of the rides was a man named Dan Pallotta. I met him as we were walking to the buffet line one night on my ride. He’s a dynamo of a person and has some very unpopular opinions about fundraising and how it should be structured. His TEDTalk, “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong,” which can be viewed on the TED website, is nothing short of genius. I think his view of the way that charity should be structured both accurate and visionary in that probably 99.9 percent of the charities will balk at the way he thinks they should be compensated.

On the AIDSVaccine Ride we raised millions of dollars for research while having fun, just like the folks who will be running through the city on May 19. It’ll be fun for them. Just like last month it was fun for the L.A. Marathon people who congregated at the finish line on Ocean Avenue.

Those events are fun. They push us to personal extremes and show us that doing good can be enjoyable and rewarding.

People crave being a part of something. It’s why religion is so powerful, whether used for good or bad. When a natural disaster strikes, like a hurricane or an earthquake, oftentimes it is the religious community that is able to marshal assets quickly for an immediate response to needs for food, shelter and warmth. This is the good of religion. For all the bad that the Catholics and the Mormons have done, I will give them the credit they deserve for the good they do with providing food and medical supplies in times of disasters. They do show up in force with the needed goods and don’t withhold them in times of crisis.

The feeling that one is contributing to a larger cause is crucial to the success of a fundraiser, and it is why the blending of sport and cause-related fundraising is so very effective. The combination of doing something for yourself, and at the same time helping others, creates a feedback loop that reinforces the good feelings.

The upcoming race benefits Heal the Bay, an organization that has raised millions of dollars and removed tons of trash from the bay with their organized trash pickup days. Heal the Bay is a great organization and I support their efforts and constant monitoring of the bay.

We need these events, and the good feelings they evoke, and the money they raise because we live in difficult times. Luckily for us, we live in paradise, most of us are healthy, have more than enough food to eat and shelter to keep us warm. We can give to organizations that keep our way of life afloat. Whether it is giving money to Heal the Bay, or donating time to help feed those less fortunate, we can all do more. And if we do it running or on a bike, or some other way, it makes it that much more fun.

To register for the Santa Monica Classic, visit


David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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