With plenty of smiles at the 2010 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Chicago, members of The Warranty Group took time for photos at the group's Grant Park meeting spot. Clockwise from top left are: (Photo 1) Christopher Hollis, Reynaldo Lopez, and Willie Torrence; (Photo 2) Barbara Limanowka, Abraham Martinez, Tina Thai, Jason Spencer, and Belyinda Phan; (Photo 3) Mary Beth Montalvo and Tina Thai; (Photo 4) Shannon Strohfeldt, Yvette Wheeler-Griffin, Elvin Pedraza, Kristina Smith and Cynthia Gonia; and (Photo 5) Mark Wayman, Jeanne Jurasek and LaDonna Beekman.
Philanthropy, fitness, fun attract
The Warranty Group to Chicago race
Company Captain Andrew Perez shares a smile with team members Angelique Bernier and Sukanya Beutelspacher at the 2010 race.
CHICAGO, May 18, 2011 — The growth of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge® in Chicago - which will celebrate its 30th running with a near-record crowd of 23,365 on Thursday, May 24 — can be measured by companies such as The Warranty Group.
With global headquarters in the Chicago Loop, The Warranty Group — the world’s premier provider of extended warranty programs and related benefits for the auto, home, consumer goods and travel industries — first participated in the Corporate Challenge at Grant Park last year. This year, it will be one of 683 companies to come to the downtown, lakeside park for the annual 3.5-mile team road race.
"We decided to participate again this year because the event presents an opportunity to be philanthropic, promote employee wellness, and all the while remain eco-friendly," said Company Captain Andrew Perez, a corporate social responsibility coordinator at the firm that has grown to employ 2,000 with operations in 33 countries.
"I myself have always been an avid runner since I was young," added Perez. "I ran competitively in junior high and high school and kept with it since then. I always make time in my schedule to exercise because I feel fitness is important to maintain a well balanced lifestyle. What I love about the (Corporate) Challenge is that it allows me to participate in something that is both philanthropic and fitness related."
The tie-in to philanthropy is a natural for Perez.
"With my role at The Warranty Group I work closely on our philanthropic endeavors as well as ways that we as a company can reduce our carbon footprint," he said.
The fact that the Corporate Challenge will — for the third straight year — benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository resonates with Perez and others at The Warranty Group.
For example, the GCFD distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 66 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 135,000 meals every day.
All of which reinforces something Perez has quickly discovered about the Corporate Challenge.
"This event is easy to promote as much more than just a fitness activity," he said. "For one, the beneficiary is the Greater Chicago Food Depository, so by signing up people are also helping one of the most reputable philanthropies in the area. The event is also as eco-friendly as possible and green initiatives are extremely important to many of our associates. Lastly this event is extremely fun! We set up a tent with refreshments and food and it allows employees to talk with each other and enjoy the beautiful weather and positive atmosphere of the event."
Perez has been working on organizing this year's team for a more than a month.
"We send out a company-wide email to associates with a registration link," he said. "We also place posters throughout our two floors with sign-up information. Our company is also fortunate to have an intranet for our employees with company news and events and we heavily feature sign up on the homepage. We stress the benefits of this event on their health, community, and the environment as a whole."
He also incorporates his background as a special events coordinator into the effort.
"To really get everyone in the spirit, we order a The Warranty Group team shirt for participants of the race," he said. "As an added incentive we also allow everyone on the team to wear the shirt to work the day of the event and dress down. We also reserve a tent at Grant Park for our team to meet and have some light snacks and drinks before the race. After the race we also provide a light dinner, but more importantly a place for everyone to discuss how the race went for them."
The result is a team with a wide range of associates from entry level to senior management.
"I think this speaks to the importance of fitness and philanthropy for our employees and their commitment to come together as a company and compete for a collective goal and cause," Perez said.
Sending a message: Members of The Warranty Group display a banner that reflects their philanthropic focus at the 2010 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.
"Anything that gets fitness on people’s minds is a huge positive effect," he added. "For some people this event helps them kick off their summer regimen of fitness or reinforce what they already have established. Outside of the fitness benefits the event really helps build camaraderie within our company. We have associates of all levels attend and the atmosphere at Grant Park fosters an openness and sense of teamwork where our employees are able to meet and create lasting friendships."
Reynaldo Lopez is one of the team members for whom the Corporate Challenge, coming at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, is a fitness boost.
“After the Challenge (last year) I felt encouraged to keep up my long walks during my lunch hours and tried to take short walks during my breaks," Lopez said. "Even though the Challenge course was not that long, the walking I did helped me make it through the Challenge just fine.”
For team member Debbie Pankow, there were several reasons why participating last year was something she wanted to do.
“I was brand new to the company and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to meet fellow coworkers and get involved in something through my company," she said. "I also participated in the walk/run to challenge myself on a fitness level and get myself kicked into a more healthy and active mode. And, I wanted to be involved because it was raising money for something positive and for something that is trying to make a difference."
When you add it all up, those are reasons for a lot of people to get out to Grant Park on the kickoff of a Memorial Day weekend that for many means the start of summer. This year, in fact, it adds up to 23,365 people coming to the park, a healthy increase of 20 percent over 2010.