By Malissa Rogers
“As I’m talking to you right now, I’m walking and earning money for Project (Red). The 40 cents I’ll earn walking 1.6 miles is enough to provide someone with HIV or AIDS a daily dose of antiretroviral pills.”
So said Gene Gurkoff in an exclusive interview with dot429. Gurkoff has done his best to make it easy to raise money for charity by doing simple activities such as walking, running or cycling with the founding of Charity Miles, a free app made available to Android and iPhone users.
Charity Miles tracks an individual’s mileage through the GPS system on their phones. Walkers and runners earn .25 cents per mile; bikers earn .10 cents per mile, from Charity Miles and their corporate sponsors. When a person has completed their exercise routine, the app shows how much money was earned for the charity of their choice.
“My goal is to unleash the billions of dollars that companies are spending on advertising and turn it into money spent on charity. The whole idea is that charity budgets are not enough,” Gurkoff said in an exclusive interview with dot429. “We need to make it profitable for companies, so if they put up a dollar, they get back a dollar and a half. I’ve got to make it better for them to spend their money on research and not billboards. If we continue to do this, we will cure AIDS and Parkinson’s in no time.”
Before turning to philanthropy, Gurkoff was a Wall Street Lawyer, running marathons in his spare time in honor of his grandfather who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. He participated in more than 38 marathons and competed in 6 ironman triathlons to raise money for the debilitating disease.
From his experiences, he began to envision an organization that would provide charities with their much-needed financial support.
He found himself thinking, “What if we could harness the power of all of the millions of people who are walking for charity everywhere and turn it into donations to charities?”
So, three years ago, he quit his job on Wall Street and dedicated his time to finding a way to make his dream a reality. He soon teamed up with programmers that helped him implement his idea and design, which ultimately became Charity Miles.
The Charity Miles app has reached people throughout the nation who are now helping to raise money for organizations such as Project (Red), Michael J. Fox Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and the ASPCA.
Charity Miles is also partnering with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) which works with the private sector and honorary chairwoman First Lady Michelle Obama to fight childhood obesity. PHA became the sixteenth charity to join the Charity Miles App in January 2013, according to ahealthieramerica.org.
“I don’t like to say this, but I think this is the first time that so many top-tier charities have come together to collaborate on something this large in scale,” Gurkoff said.
Recently, Charity Miles has teamed up with Project (Red) and made it possible for app users to raise money for HIV and AIDS research.
“I was introduced to Project (Red) through the All Out organization, one of the largest organization for LGBT. They fight for rights for the LGBT community throughout the world,” says Gurkoff.
“We still have a long way to go in the U.S. for LGBT people. But it’s better than in other places in the world where you can get beat up or killed for being gay. All Out does a great job of raising awareness for gay rights around the world.”
However, Charity Miles is not sponsored by All Out, nor do they allow donations to them through the app.
“I love All Out, but we’re not an advocacy app, and that is what they do. But they were able to introduce me to Red, which is a phenomenal organization for HIV and AIDS.”
During this interview, Gurkoff was walking home from an event, and raising money for AIDs research before he even reached his doorstep.
“I have people that tweet me every day ‘Hey, you know I was walking my dog this morning and I figured that if I walked around the block one more time, I could get someone another antiretroviral pill’” says Gurkoff. “That’s exciting. It just gets me all fired up when I hear that.”