Eric Byrnes spent 11 years in the major leagues as an outfielder. He was known as one of the most energetic players in the game. So, at the end of his playing career, Byrnes needed a way to stay active.
Her next passion came from how so many life changing endeavors do it.
“On a challenge, I was challenged to go for a sprint triathlon. I absolutely had my butt kicked and loved every minute of it, ”Byrnes says.
This sprint triathlon has evolved into Ironman triathlons and other endurance races. Then one day, Byrnes and his wife were looking for a school for their three children.
“We couldn’t find a public school with an everyday PE,” Byrnes said. “As a kid who grew up full-fledged with ADHD (physical education class), I knew this was my outlet. It’s not just a physical thing, it’s really what it does for the mind.
Numerous studies have shown that children… and adults, as the author of this story can attest… with ADHD benefit psychologically from even moderate daily exercise.
“Think of exercise as medicine,” said John Ratey, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in an article for Additude magazine. “Exercise activates the attention system. On a practical level, this makes children less impulsive, making them more ready to learn. “
So Eric and his wife decided that they had to do something to help the children move again.
“We kind of did this crusade and this mission. Listen, let’s not just think about ourselves or our kids, ”Byrnes says. “Think of other kids and other people who don’t have the opportunity to exercise, go out and play.
They used his experience in baseball and endurance sports to come up with a plan.
“That kind of wacky adventure to go around the country and basically go to stadiums and use that platform to hand out vouchers to different local youth activity organizations in the cities we would go to,” Byrnes explains.
Eric figured that if he asked the children to move, he had better move himself. Byrnes did a triathlon across America, starting with a 7 mile swim from AT&T Park in San Francisco across the bay to Oakland. From there, Byrnes cycled over 2,400 miles to Chicago, then cycled over 900 miles to New York.
Along the way, he presented checks from donations made to the Let Them Play Foundation, which has so far given money to 49 different youth organizations in the United States. Byrnes knows that, in the pursuit of higher test scores, many schools have lost funding for regular physical education classes.
“The first things to do are physical education, art and music. If you could tell me if there are three things all of our children need that will be of use to them for the rest of their lives, it’s physical education, art and music, ”Byrnes says.
Thus, most donations from the Let Them Play Foundation (www.letthemplayfoundation.org) go to extracurricular organizations.
“We need to provide extracurricular opportunities for young people for all children,” Byrnes says. “It’s not necessarily a return to the physical thing. This is what he does for children mentally. Quite honestly they have to come out and they have to play and we have to help them. “
This is one of the reasons a documentary was made on the national triathlon. You can watch it at www.letthemplayfilm.com for a donation of $ 10 and if you are wondering where the money is going… it goes straight to American youth.
In December, Byrnes realized that most people would be upset.
“We were broke,” Byrnes said. “And I was like, I want to be broke. This is the idea and the point of this. Every dollar we’ve raised we’re such a small 501- © (3) that we just give it back. We don’t have anyone on the payroll and it was so cool to see what kind of impact we can have locally.
Now, it’s a little ironic to make a story about getting kids out and moving during the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of horrible timing, Byrnes sees an opportunity. For each release of the documentary, one dollar will be donated to the Let Them Play COVID-19 Response Fund to help support the children of essential workers. Plus, being locked inside might even help the cause of the exercise.
“You lock someone inside and people realize what going outside and what exercise actually does for them.”