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In celebration of APTA's 100 Days of Service initiative and National Physical Therapy Month in October, we're taking a look at some of our members' community service efforts. In this installment: Reed Handlery, PT, DPT, PhD, shares his thoughts on combining physical activity, community service, and fundraising.

How have you given back during National Physical Therapy Month or throughout the year?

I have participated in PT Day of Service since 2018 and in addition, service throughout National Physical Therapy Month. I love the idea of the profession getting together and serving their communities: That's what led me to create the "Gamecock Challenge" while at the University of South Carolina. The Gamecock Challenge, named after the U of SC mascot, is a mix of a fundraising, service, and physical activity competition that challenges PTs and PTAs, as well as students, to fundraise and serve during National Physical Therapy Month.

At the time I created the challenge, I asked myself, “What could I be doing better to serve my profession and community?” The answer, of course, was to challenge myself and those around me not only to complete a tough physical challenge (rowing 50,000 meters as a team) but also to make an impact in the local community and promote what physical therapy does best – movement-based medicine. In 2018, the challenge involved only one team (South Carolina) and raised $900 for accessible playground equipment. Fast-forward to 2020: 14 physical therapy programs across the country competed and raised over $14,000 with over $4,000 going to the APTA Campaign for Future Generations.

The challenge now has a clear mission —  improving DEI in physical therapy. I am excited to continue to build the challenge in 2021 to make a greater impact and hope one day to be able to provide scholarships for the diverse members of the physical therapy community. The winning team (fastest row time after reducing time based on fundraising and service hours during NPTM) now receives at least $500 for their chosen cause in addition to the coveted Golden Goni trophy. The event gets students excited about serving and adds a fun challenge to the mix.

Why is this activity important to you? How does it promote the value of physical therapy?

The Gamecock Challenge has a strong place in my heart because I feel it embodies the profession of physical therapy. The challenge combines what we do best: movement and service to others. Since 2020 the challenge has supported DEI efforts. While DEI in the profession has a long way to go (and has been an issue since the profession's inception), the Gamecock Challenge takes an active step toward creating change rather than just talking about it.

What have you gained from your experience giving back?

Giving back may seem selfless, but as a volunteer you often leave with more than you put in. There is a sense of enjoyment that I find only comes from donating time and effort in the service of others. Volunteering is a great way to meet other caring, passionate people, and I have made several good friends from my experiences. I also feel a tremendous amount of personal growth after reflecting on my experiences, which inspires me to do even more service.

Any words of advice for other members looking to get involved and wondering where to start?

Giving back does not need to be anything big (like a national competition involving trophies, monetary awards, and a 50,000 meter row). Starting with something small, meaningful to you and your community, and feasible, is always a safe bet. Then in subsequent years (or service experiences) you can build on that previous service and continue to push for a greater impact. I also would recommend diversifying your service and trying new experiences. I never realized I love shoveling dirt to help build and maintain trails until I did it.

Reed Handlery, PT, DPT, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education. You can connect with him at reedhandlery@gmail.com or on instagram @gamecockchallenge.


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