Author Archive

Written from the perspective of and by Kathryn Fernandez, Non-Residential Member


             Saturday morning at 8:00 am I made the brisk walk to House of Passage, a shelter for single women, just a half mile from my apartment in West Philly.  I was showing up this Saturday morning to ride with the House of Passage Back on My Feet team to the annual Pickle Run, a 5k run known for its hidden pickle prizes. The race is unique because the end goal isn’t to have the fastest time, but instead, to finish as close to your predicted time as possible (nobody is permitted to wear watches).  I had the opportunity to see the House of Passage team launch, and I have done my best to attend the occasional morning run for the last few months but I typically meet new Residential Members every time I attend an event. This morning was the same, I showed up early and sat down at a picnic table next to two women wearing Back on My Feet clothing. I wasn’t sure if they were Residential Members or Non-Residential Members, a perfect example of how everyone appears wonderfully equal when they’re wearing their running sneaks.  I started talking to Melinda, whom I quickly discovered was a Residential Member running her first 5k. She was talking quickly and excitedly and it was obvious she was nervous. She said she hadn’t slept all night, she was worried she wouldn’t finish the race and would disappoint the team, but I think, she was worried about disappointing herself. She kept saying, “I’m just going to do my best.”  She also remarked that she was nervous she would end up running alone or holding other runners back from doing well. How ironic that she was worrying about running alone and my greatest fear was not finding a partner to run with myself. I told her that I would run with her the whole time and that I was relieved to have a partner. We started the race a few hours later, after a twisty half an hour ride in a packed van, and a team leader dressed as a pickle (I’m not fibbing), and an hour long wait in the 36 degree, sunny but freezing cold day.  The beginning of races are always exciting and everyone runs too fast, accelerated by their adrenaline and the spectator’s cheers. Melinda was short of breath at first and idle chitchat was not a priority. Of course, I just chattered away, I was hoping to distract her, but probably I just like to talk too much. Finally, when she settled into a good pace we were able to converse, and I discovered Melinda had never walk/ran more than a mile. Her estimated finish time was 60 minutes. I was pretty surprised considering we were walking and running at a pretty consistent pace, and Melinda seemed to be doing great. We kept our eyes out for hidden pickles along the way, but alas, we never found one. The halfway turnaround seemed to come fairly quickly, and the horrible hill didn’t really seem so horrible. Melinda was slowing down, just a little, and she was concerned she wouldn’t make 60 minutes. I laughed and said, “Melinda I will be surprised if it takes you longer than 45 minutes”. She didn’t believe me. Not long after we saw the Back on My Feet volunteers holding up signs for Melinda and cheering us along. Melinda had even invited her friend to come and cheer, and what a great choice of support because she had an impressive set of pipes. The finish line was in sight! Melinda, amongst cheers from the team, a team leader dressed as a pickle, and with her new friend, crossed the finished line, with tears in her eyes. Her first words, “I did my best” I turned her around and said, “look at the time!” She had finished in 39 minutes! It is amazing how proud of someone you can feel, even after only having known them for a couple of hours. The best part…during the awards ceremony Melinda was the most improved on her predicted time, the prize… a jar of pickles.


Pickle Run

The Prize!

The Prize!


This year at Back on My Feet Philadelphia’s holiday party the annual talent show is becoming an exciting and valuable tradition. We would like to share a particularly special talent shared by one of our resident members. Antwan B. composed and performed a rap about his experience with Back on My Feet, below we would like to share his lyrics.


Antwan performing his rap

Antwan performing his rap


























Trust I’mma let the truth be told

Trust that I will never bend, break or fold

Trust that I will never live in the cold

Since I met Back on My Feet

Gradually ya man is Back on his Feet

Tragically I had to endure some bad situations

But nevertheless I’m still out here motivated

Racing to the finish line, yea, the prize is mine

I’m in my prime, like Optimus Prime

But, this is not a cartoon

These streets can suck you in, just like a vacuum

or like a toilet in a bathroom

Killing you with bad fumes

So I suggest I get my A Game!

Straight like Kobe Bryant on a fast break

I have to penetrate my adversaries

The clock is ticking, the cops are riffing,the glock is spitting,

A young thug gets dropped, no pitty

See this is what I see in my cityof Brotherly Love,

you can see a brother get slugged

So I try to avoid these circumstances

And Back on My Feet they gave me second chances

Trust I’mma let the truth be told

Trust I will never bend, break or fold

Trust I will never leave you in the cold.

On November 10th, Back on My Feet Philadelphia participated, once again, in the 11th annual Burlington River Run 5K.  This year was a great success!  Our newest team from House of Passage participated in this year’s run and it was the ladies first race with Back on My Feet. Team leader Chakir remarks, “It was a very successful day down at Burlington, New Jersey.  Every one of the ladies ran their hearts out and I’m proud of their effort and performance. I am so excited and honored to be featured along side some amazing ladies! I’m all smiles!”

Executive Director, Jill Fink, tells the story of Residential Member, Yasmeen, in her letter of thanks to Doane Academy.  “Yasmeen joined BoMF in early October.  She is a Resident at the House of Passage facility and a Member of our all-women’s team.  This was her first race and you can tell by the picture of her at the finish line, the sense of joy and accomplishment she felt in completing the race. You’ll also see that she pinned a photo of her mother to her bib and was very emotional at the end of race, wishing that her mom could have been there to share in the moment with her.”

Doane Academy, the Burlington and Camden Counties YMCA, and the Rotary Club of Burlington work together to present this event, and each year a portion of the proceeds are given to Back on My Feet.  As we enter into the holiday season we can’t help but feel thankful to have partnerships with organizations like Doane Academy that provide our members with these enriching experiences.

Below are some pictures of our group participating in the 5k and of Yasmeen’s emotional finish.


Attention all Back on My Feet Philly supporters: this coming Tuesday, August 21st, we’ll be having our first annual Back on My Feet Track Meet and Fundraiser thanks to the efforts of the Wissahickon Wanderers! The event will take place at the track field at Roxborough High School (4701 Pechin Avenue, Philadelphia) with various races, relays, and sprints, and then we’ll follow up with a delicious barbecue (free for all participants)!

Events will include: 400-, 800-, 3200-meter, and mile-long dashes as well as 400-, 800-, 3200-meter, and mile-long relays. It’s $5 to register for the first event, and then it’s $3 for each event after that. Relay teams are $5 to enter. To top it off…the Drumcliff Foundation will be matching up to $2,000 raised by registrations and donations to BoMF!

To register, click here. All abilities and participants are welcome! As always, hope to see you there!


Want to help BoMF participate in more events like this? Click here to read more about our 180 Challenge, or text “Feet” to 52000 to donate $10 to Back on My Feet.

The following is a piece written by one of our Non-Residential Members who runs with Our Brother’s Place, Bob. He participated in this year’s 20in24 alongside his teammate, Nelson, and he summarized his experience for us below:

“Nelson H., who is 56 years old, has been with BoMF for five months while living at Our Brother’s Place. He joined not out of his own interest; rather, he wanted to help out a blind fellow Residential Member who wanted to give Back on My Feet a try. Nelson became hooked on the 5:30 A.M. runs and even started to do some on his own. In April, he became mentally determined to run Midnight Madness, but he seemed physically unready, even as we approached race day. It was the first time in his life that he would attempt to do something like this.

Nelson at 20in24

So there Nelson was at Lloyd Hall at 11:30 P. M. on that hot and humid Saturday night, decked out with glow sticks. His face reflected resolve in his broad smile. His eyes gleamed.

Off we started. We did not know that our journey would wind up with a 2 hour and 10 minute finish. A few miles into the run, he cramped up; we walked on.  Then his hips started to hurt, and soon enough, sciatic started down his leg. He got lightheaded, and we walked a lot, stretching on stone walls and bridges while catching a midnight moon sliver. By mile five, he expressed his disappointment that he probably would finish last and, worse, because that same fate applied to me as well. He was daunted, but we both reminded ourselves that a teammate never lets a fellow teammate run alone. The new goal for us changed to: finish standing, no stretchers! Hot and tired, we did it! He was hurting but was so proud. This was a milestone in his life, and I was there to share it with him.  After the finish, the onsite medic unit checked him out, stretched him, cooled him down, hydrated him further, took his temperature and pulse, and declared him good to go.

Some of our BoMF Philly members

Nelson convinced me then to move on and join my biker buddies for our volunteer duty. We’re out there, three boys from Jersey on a night bike ride, and here comes Nelson like an apparition, biking now in our cross-circuit direction. He had calmed down and was motivated to cheer others along. He insisted on following his own pace and course direction. I later learned that Nelson volunteered for bike patrol until 7 A.M. before he stopped for the day. His final words were that, this year, “all we did was a baseline”; it was only prep for next year’s 20in24.

Thank you, BoMF, for giving Nelson the vision, the opportunity, and the chance to succeed and set goals outside of his comfort zone. Thanks for giving him a chance to feel pride and success while reinforcing that the giving part of life is as strong as its receiving end. Thank you for creating the day and night in which I was a witness to an experience that Nelson shall never forget, and neither will I.


-Bob P., Non-Residential Member, Our Brother’s Place


Want to make more stories like Nelson and Bob’s happen? Click here to commit to our 180 Challenge, or donate $10 to Back on My Feet by texting “FEET” to 52000.


Each early morning we lace up our shoes and head out the door at 5 a.m. we demonstrate of our commitment to the Back on My Feet mission. That being said, there are some achievements that truly demonstrate the dedication of our members; the 500-mile mark is certainly one of these milestones. Last week, we all celebrated this accomplishment when one of our members, Ron H., hit his 500-mile mark with Back on My Feet Philadelphia’s St. John’s Hospice team.


Ron has been running with our St. John’s team for the past seventeen months alongside one of his teammates, Dan (Read Friends from very different realities in The Philadelphia Inquirer). The two of them have shared many experiences (and logged many miles) together, and to commemorate Ron’s incredible accomplishment, Dan has written a piece for his blog about Ron’s 500-mile mark.

As with all of our members, we’re extremely proud of and very excited to congratulate Ron for his perseverance, and we wish him the best for his next 500 miles!

Make more member achievements possible. Click here to learn more about our 180 Challenge or donate $10 to Back on My Feet by texting “FEET” to 52000.

Attention all BoMF Philly supporters: we just got word about one of our first silent auction items to be featured at our 6th Annual Back on My Feet Bash, presented by Stroehmann Bakeries! Carli Lloyd, the midfielder for the US women’s soccer team at the London Olympics, has just donated a certificate to her week-long soccer camp at Universal Soccer Academy in 2013!

We’ll be releasing more details soon, but to get a little more information on her career and what she’s been doing at the Olympics, check out the links below! And, of course, don’t forget to purchase tickets to our 6th Annual Bash by clicking here!

  • Click here for Carli’s biography
  • Click here for an update on her performance at the Olympics
  • Click here for more information on Universal Soccer Academy

Last Thursday, July 19th, members of Back on My Feet Philadelphia met with representatives from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation in Rittenhouse Square to be presented with a very generous grant of $25,000 from the organization. The grant was one in a series of “Innovation Grants” the organization has awarded to nonprofits promoting healthy living and community building.


Our celebration was so exciting that we made it on to the eleven o’clock news on 6ABC! To check out our segment, click here.


We were thrilled that over thirty people, including the IBC Blue Streaks and Blue Crew, came out to show support of the Back on My Feet and Independence Blue Cross partnership. Everyone had a great time as we were handed the enormous check amongst a cheering crowd, and in typical Back on My Feet fashion, we followed the gathering with a laid-back one-mile fun run through Center City! Check out some shots from the event below:

Thanks again to everyone who came out to show their support for BoMF Philly!


The Independence Blue Cross Foundation, founded in October 2011, funds programs and initiatives that advance caring for the Philadelphia region’s most vulnerable, enhance health care delivery, build healthy communities, and spur innovation. To learn more about the foundation, visit their website at

Jackie B. first heard about Back on My Feet from a friend in her hometown of Wilmington, Delaware who was a member at New Jerusalem Now (NJN). “When I first started I couldn’t run the whole distance. I’m a sprinter by nature so I had to start by walking. It made me feel like I accomplished something. I’m not only running for myself, I’m also running for someone else – for a lot of people.” Jackie was nervous for her first 5k race last October. After completing it, she realized “I can do this.” Since then Jackie has been consistently improving her race times and ran at the AT&T Back on My Feet Halfway-to-Broad 5-miler, despite occasional knee pain. Jackie says about the morning runs, “now I don’t even need an alarm clock. I wake up ready to run at 4:30 every morning.”

Since joining Back on My Feet, Jackie states that meeting diverse people like students from Temple and members from other BoMF teams has made her realize that each person’s story is different and relevant and in Jackie’s own words, “that I am somebody.”  Jackie’s big eyes and mischievous smile easily break into a laugh and can’t help but spread a positive mood to those around her.

Jackie had to face the untimely death of her young son, which ultimately inspired her to join the immersive, community addiction recovery program at NJN to change the direction of her life.  “I run the bad stuff off. I always say ‘Good Morning’ to my son, who is with me every day. If it wasn’t for him I’d still be sitting on the corner doing what I was doing (drugs). Now I’m doing something for me, something that is positive.”

Jackie is currently a house manager at NJN where she oversees a house of six women in the addiction recovery program.  She is an excellent motivator to the women at the house as well as to her BoMF teammates and keeps people giggling early in the morning.  Through her dedication and hard work, she manages to maintain an endearing sunny attitude, consistency and approachability.  She takes a behind-the-scenes leadership approach through many small acts that make a big difference. Whether it’s acting as a voicemail/secretary for her house residents or cooking for someone who doesn’t like to cook just to be nice, Jackie always steps up. If you’re lucky, you can spot her cooking up her favorite meal, Chicken Parmesan.

Jackie has been attending banking courses with BoMF and recently enrolled in a beginner’s computer course that she is excited about. Her openness to change and learning is contagious, even in regards to things that intimidate her and she says she knows nothing about.

 “I never completed anything I started in my life. Back on My Feet has shown me that I can do that. It helps me to keep my mind together and now I believe my kids when they tell me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.” Jackie’s kids are proud of her for being part of Back on My Feet, living at New Jerusalem Now and running races.

   Jarius G., Residential Member, NJN“Jarius has been one of the key figures in making my new role as Team Leader a lot easier to manage.  He is always one of the first people out in the morning and he always greets everyone with an enthusiastic hello.  His easy-going demeanor keeps the atmosphere light and he has shown steady growth as a runner, passing milestones as he goes.
  Leigh Ann S., Non-Residential Member, NJN “Leigh Anne is a regular runner at our morning runs, and she always brings a positive energy with her.  Leigh Anne has been always offered to help out in anyway she can, which has been greatly appreciated as I have taken on more responsibility as Team Leader.  It has been fun getting to know Leigh Anne, and it is always nice to see a fellow University of Scranton alum coming out to run with Back on My Feet.”

Nick R.

“I love Back on My Feet because it motivates me to work harder on myself”  -Nick R., Residential Member, OBP

Eleni S.


“Joining BoMF has been an amazing physical AND mental motivator, as a runner, as a member of the community, and as a former night owl turned morning person! The sense of kinship and joy I feel after sharing a run with my OBP teammates keeps me energized in every possible way…right up until the next time we circle up.” -Eleni S., Non-Residential Member, NJN

Brigid & Les


“I enjoy the physical and spiritual aspect of it. It puts me in a better state of mind.” -Les S., Residential Member, RWA
  “I think my favorite part about running with BoMF is the genuinely caring environment.  I actually get excited to wake up at 5 a.m. for a run, which is not something I ever expected to enjoy.  It is awesome coming back from a longer run and seeing all of our teammates not only waiting for us, but clapping and cheering us on as we finish up a run” -Brigid B., Non-Residential Member, RWA


Ramona, Residential Member, Sheila Dennis “Ramona knows how to work hard and also give a great hug! A hug from Ramona makes you feel like the center of the world, which is just encouraging to drive you to keep up with her.” – Evan C., BoMF Member Services Manager
  Residential Team, Somerset “From the first day, everyone at Somerset pushed themselves to do better than the day before. With a team like this, it’s difficult to pick just one person. Congratulations to the whole team!”
  “Running with Somerset 2 days a week has changed my life in small but important ways.  I’ve never been so consistently ready and able to get out of bed as I have been since joining BOMF to spend time with the res and non-res members.  It’s a perfect way to start the day!” Megan V., Non-Residential Member, Somerset

St. John's Hospice

We’d like to highlight all of our res who rocked the Philadelphia half-marathon (most for the first time!) Congratulations to Ron, Mike, Chris, Joe, and Troy!! – Deirdre D., Team Leader, St. John’s Hospice

Faye & Chris

“It has been such a pleasure to get to know the St. Johns team the past few months.  I feel truly lucky to be a part of this team and to share this experience with people from all different backgrounds.  I am excited to build many more friendships and memories in the future with Back on My Feet!” -Faye H., Non-Residential Member, St. John’s Hospice