NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
To celebrate, one man decided to tackle a Herculean task, one that would not only challenge his personal fitness, but raise money to help his community fight back against the coronavirus pandemic.
“Maybe I need to do something kinda crazy,” Leland Yu said.
He told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock he was never a serious runner. But when he lost his job as a cook due to the pandemic, Yu, who hopes to someday be a firefighter, decided to step up his physical training.
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“Gyms are closed. I don’t have a job. I have some time on my hands,” he said.
He started pounding the pavement more frequently. And then?
“It was kind of a lightbulb moment,” he said. “One day on my run I thought ‘How can I help give back to my community?'”
His crazy idea? Run for 12 hours and cover 60 miles throughout the city, and convince friends and family to sponsor his “Run for Chinatown.”
“I thought wow, I’m actually going to do this! Or, now I actually have to do this,” he said.
On May 1, the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Yu set out at 7 a.m. The rain didn’t let up for hours, but he kept on, and said crossing the Manhattan Bridge near the end of the journey was glorious: Sun shining, childhood memories flooding back.
“All of me felt good. My mind, body, soul,” he said.
In total, Yu ran nearly 62 miles and raised $24,000. All of the money for Welcome To Chinatown.
“We are in our eighth week since our launch,” said Jennifer Tan, co-founder of Welcome To Chinatown. “In total, we have raised more $150,000.”
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Co-founders Tan and Victoria Lee started the organization to help mom and pop shops who’ve been hit hard from the start of 2020.
“Business had declined 30-80% since January,” Lee said.
Much of the money raised goes to their Feed Our Heroes initiative. Meals get purchased from local restaurants and delivered to workers on the front lines at a cost of about $10 per meal.
“That’s feeding about 2,000 workers right there,” Lee said.
“From one little idea I had while I was out for a jog,” Yu said. “That’s a pretty good feeling.”
Certainly deserving of this tribute: The theme song from Rocky played as he crossed the finish line in Chinatown, proving his physical prowess and lifting up his entire community.
Yu hopes he can transform Run for Chinatown into an annual organized event for the masses.