TeamNEGU Blog

Cancer Survivor raises funds for kids fighting cancer with 24-Hour Challenge

August 5, 2022

Matt Olson is a cancer survivor who lives in Eastvale, CA with his beautiful family of four. When he got diagnosed with cancer, he heard about a girl named Jessie Rees. He found inspiration in Jessie’s journey and in her strength to find a greater purpose in her battle with cancer. 

Matt first heard about the Jessie Rees Foundation through his church and got involved in a service day at the JoyFactory. He thought he was coming down to “meet the kids” but was joyfully surprised to learn he would be stuffing JoyJars for the kids! Once that first meeting in the JoyFactory happened, he was so inspired that he decided to commit to raising money for the Courageous Kids who need encouragement to Never Ever Give Up (NEGU) in their brave battle, just like he did.

Matt combined his inspiration with his love for fitness and created a 24-hour fitness challenge to raise funds for the Jessie Rees Foundation in honor of all Courageous Kids fighting cancer. This community event has been going strong for five years now, with this year’s challenge being one of the most intense yet. The goal was to burn 10,000 calories in twenty-four hours riding a Rogue Echo air bike! Previous challenges included a full day of burpees and lunges, squats, kettlebells, and rowing.

Erik Rees and team riding the bike during 24 hour challengeIf you have never participated in a challenge like this, powering through for an entire twenty-four hours is as much mental as it is physical. It takes a lot of NEGU spirit to make it all the way. But looking around the community center, you could see the relentless determination to honor kids fighting cancer. Photos of several Courageous Kids were proudly displayed everywhere to encourage and inspire the participants to NEGU, just like the incredibly strong kids they were supporting do every day.

From families to firefighters, CrossFit athletes to city councilmen, and more – nearly 200 people from all walks of life came together to support kids fighting cancer. World CrossFit Champion Jason Khalipa, whose daughter Ava fought leukemia, also came out to support (and participate!) in the 24-hour Challenge. The event took place at Eastvale Community Center in Eastvale, CA, with more teams participating virtually from Virginia and three other California locations. Each team was on a mission to burn their 10,000 calories and developed different strategies to make it happen as the day progressed. Throughout the day, there was music pumping, laughter, lots of sweat and sore muscles, and tons of encouragement. This year’s 24-hour Challenge was sponsored by Sprouts, who kept participants fed and hydrated. Bang Energy and Nektar also came out to support energy intake and nutrition. It was a true community effort!

Two of the participating teams had very personal connections to the event and the cause. Team Addi was headed by Brandon Plott, whose daughter Addi was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2021. Team AJ was captained by Ricky De La Torre. Ricky’s son AJ is in his third fight against a brain cancer called Medulloblastoma. To honor both Courageous Families, the event held a special hour for both Addi and AJ. During each hour, Addi and AJ’s favorite songs were played and every team rode in honor of them! There was also a special moment where AJ, who could not be there due to receiving treatment, got to spend some time together with his dad virtually. Seeing the love and encouragement between AJ and Ricky was truly special. And of course, Team Jessie was led by Jessie’s daddy, Erik. Jessie’s hour was the last hour of the day, and everyone gave their all in honor of Jessie and her wish to encourage every kid fighting cancer to Never Ever Give Up. The music playing overhead for that hour was the playlist that Jessie listened to while receiving chemotherapy. The love and support for Jessie, AJ, and Addi was incredible!  Face timing Addi on tv during 24-hour-challenge

Every team surpassed the goal of burning 10,000 calories – some accomplishing it halfway in! So the goal naturally became, “How many calories can we burn?” In total, the teams combined to burn 146,000 calories in twenty-four hours! And the best part, over $40,000 was raised to encourage brave kids battling cancer all around the world. Because of this powerful community event, and all the incredible people who took on this challenge, more than 1600 Courageous Kids will receive one of Jessie’s JoyJars!

When asked why he created this event, Matt shared, “This is our little piece to raise awareness and raise a little bit of money to help kids who are going through this journey themselves. Kids are out there fighting cancer and they need JoyJars, so I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from completing this event. I’m working for the money raised and when the community comes together, it’s a beautiful thing. Together, we can make an impact.” – Matt Olson

Team NEGU on the bike holding the team Jessie signWe are so thankful for Matt Olson and the community surrounding and supporting the Jessie Rees Foundation and Jessie’s wish every day. The impact is felt around the world as kids are encouraged to NEGU! If you would like to start a fundraiser to help kids fighting cancer, click here!