Making up part of the record crowd of 23,602 participants from 632 companies in 2008, the American Bar Association fielded a team of 100, its first entry at Chicago's JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in more than a decade.
Efforts of individuals make a difference
to growing ABA team in Chicago
ABA Company Captain Stephanie Giggetts looks out on Grant Park at the 2008 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.
CHICAGO, May 7, 2009 — Coming seemingly out of nowhere, the figures are impressive. In 2008, the American Bar Association entered a team of 100 for the Chicago JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge. This year, ABA’s team has grown to 134.
Other companies will have larger teams when the 28th annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge® in Chicago helps kick off Memorial Day weekend with a 7:10 p.m. race start at Grant Park on Thursday, May 21. But, the ABA figures are impressive because there was no ABA team at all in 2007, or, in fact, for more than decade before that.
The numbers and growth for the American Bar Association don’t just come out of nowhere, of course. As is often the case, a few key people can have a huge, positive impact on wellness at a company. In the case of the ABA’s involvement in the Chicago Corporate Challenge, it starts with Executive Director Henry F. White, Jr., and Company Captain Stephanie Giggetts.
“In the early and mid 1990s, probably from 1990 to 1995, the ABA had a team with, at most, 15 people,” said Giggetts, an Associate General Counsel at the ABA. “Then, there was not a team until last year.”
What changed were the arrival of Giggetts and the company-wide focus of White on creating a healthy workplace environment. The Corporate Challenge looked like a perfect opportunity for the ABA to promote wellness to its employees, thought Giggetts.
“I started here in 2006,” said Giggetts. “I am an avid runner and know that timing is everything. I had run in Corporate Challenges in other cities, including Rochester, so I knew the event. Our executive director (White) was really focused on wellness, so, I presented an idea to human resources to enter a team in the Chicago Corporate Challenge.”
Given White’s focus and Giggetts’ initiative, it’s not surprising that approval for a team was granted. The ABA, which is made up numerous divisions that reflect different branches of law, has a solid, email-based system of internal communications. Giggetts used that to help spread the word and a team materialized where there had been none.
“We didn’t have much of a budget, only enough for t-shirts and registration,” said Giggetts of the effort last year, which employees loved. “People were really excited, and it generated enthusiasm for this year.”
This year, the ABA will have a tent to host a post-race party, but entries had to be cut off at 134, said Giggetts, because of budget constraints.
The ABA team has attracted increased entries in its second year back at the Corporate Challenge.
“I’m very glad that the company is supporting this type of an event, and we’ll get through these economically challenging times,” she said. “Getting one-half of our company in the Corporate Challenge is a goal of mine.”
Still, she admits that getting 134 employees from a company of 678 (in Chicago) – about 20 per cent participation – is “not too bad.”
“It’s something that I’m happy about and that I hope will continue,” she said.
Behind the numbers are the intangibles. As the Corporate Challenge approaches, she sees more employees using the company’s fitness center, talking with its personal trainer, and going out for runs through Grant Park and nearby areas. Plus, because the Corporate Challenge’s distance is 3.5 miles, it encourages walkers to participate.
“That’s a really good thing,” said Giggetts, who has seen the difference having an event like the Corporate Challenge to point toward can make in beginning a fitness program for people.
This year, the post-race party at Grant Park also figures to tap into the Corporate Challenge’s other main goal of fostering camaraderie in an out-of-the-office setting.
“It’s a good venue for us,” said Giggetts. “We have an annual meeting and a mid-year meeting, but this will bring people from different divisions and branches together in one event.”
Giggetts, 43 and the mother of a 3-year-old boy, still runs marathons and ultra-marathons. She competed in the famed Comrades Marathon (a 55-mile race) in South Africa in 2005; has run a marathon best of 3 hours, 21 minutes; and finished the 2007 Chicago Lakefront 50/50 Marathon in 3:42.
For someone who has long loved running, seeing what is happening at her company is all good. Knowing she, along with White and others, helped make it happen is even better.