Founder of Harlem Run and Run 4 All Women, Alison Désir is an endurance athlete, activist, and mental health counselor. When she’s not running, Alison is working to resolve issues related to women and girls as well as mental health.
Here are Alison’s answers to The Sport of Philanthropy’s top 10 questions about her philanthropic work:
1. What’s your motivation for giving back?
My motivation for giving back is rooted in a social justice perspective — everyone deserves health and happiness. All of the fundraising that I do is centered on making sure that people have the ability to lead healthier lives, through movement and/or access to health services.
2. What issues are most important to you and why?
Mental health and women's reproductive rights are the two most important issues to me. Mental health because of my own experiences with mental illness and the ways in which therapy and running/movement transformed my life. Women's reproductive rights because, as a woman, I have been privileged to receive access to the very care that is being denied others and feel it’s a moral imperative to ensure that all women (people) everywhere have the right/access to make the best decisions for themselves.
3. How has growing up in Harlem inspired your philanthropic work and activism?
Historically, Harlem is the center of black culture and thought. There is no doubt that this history and the many activists, artists, and critical thinkers from this neighborhood inspired me! In particular, I draw inspiration from the New York Pioneer Club — it was an athletic club founded in 1936 in Harlem and was the first its kind — it was the only racially integrated athletic team in existence. This commitment to inclusion is deeply embedded in all of the work that I do.
4. Can you share a particular success story about a person you've helped through your Harlem Run or Run 4 All Women organizations or other charitable work?
There are so many amazing stories that come from Harlem Run. I think the stories that impact me most deeply are those of the kids (or young legendz, as we call them) who join us. I have had the pleasure of seeing about a dozen young black and brown young legendz grow with us from shy kids into confident teenagers about to graduate high school. It feels really special that Harlem Run is part of their lives.
5. What philanthropic accomplishment are you most proud of?
In 2017, I raised nearly $200,000 for Planned Parenthood which launched Run 4 All Women. What is most notable about this is that the donors were largely every day folks — the average donation was $20. It was incredibly humbling to be able to mobilize so many folks around the globe.
6. How have you seen your charitable organizations positively impact participants and communities such as Harlem?
I think the most positive thing to come out of my personal fundraising is to see the way that it has encouraged others in the group to take on their own fundraising initiatives.
7. What are your longer term goals for Harlem Run and Run 4 All Women?
Ultimately, I would like to see both organizations continue on well beyond me. I'd love to empower new leaders to carry on the mission of both organizations so that many more lives can be transformed by the power of sport.
8. Who else in the sports world do you see as inspirational in their philanthropic work and why?
I am of course inspired by the philanthropy of Colin Kaepernick who gives to organizations focused on social justice. Additionally, I am inspired by the work of my Under Armour teammate, Natasha Hastings, who has launched a foundation to support young female athletes. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with her on some of her initiatives and it has been inspiring to see the impact that she is making on the next generation of track stars.
9. What advice would you give other athletes and influential sports figures seeking to use their platforms to create positive social impact and better the world?
"Start now." I find that there are always a million reasons to start next week or wait until things are perfect but the present is the only time that's guaranteed and nothing will ever be perfect. Much of what I've done I've figured out along the way, with the support of my community.
10. Who do you like running with most?
I gave birth to my son, Kouri Henri Figueroa, on July 23rd and cannot wait to run with him!
Learn more about Alison on her website.