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Corporate Challenge accommodates Starwood's fitness, charitable goals

Starwood team members display one of the custom-designed shirts that help make the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge a unique event for the company.
Starwood team members display one of the custom-designed shirts that help make the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge a unique event for the company.

Starwood is a relative newcomer to the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge®, but it has found the event as accommodating as its various hotels throughout metropolitan Boston.

Starwood entered the 3.5-mile team run/walk for the first time in 2012. It has grown its participation 150-percent since, from 30 to a registered 45 for this year’s June 24 event in Boston’s Back Bay.

But it is not just the growing numbers that are important to Starwood. It is the positive effect the Corporate Challenge is having on the company’s fitness and social activities. It’s not one night of exercise … it’s a lifestyle change.

“What I think our team has that is special are the friendship and bonds that have formed over coming together to train for this race,” said Lisa Blades, Associate Director Catering Sales for Starwood in Boston and its company captain. “Many of our team members get together after work to run on the Charles. We have also done other activities such as other 5Ks, bike races, 10Ks and some half-marathons. The momentum and inspiration that takes place while we come out of winter and prepare for the annual Corporate Challenge is the true story for us.”

That story began unfolding four years ago when Boston Starwood downtown hotels — including The Westin Copley Place, The Westin Boston Waterfront, Sheraton Boston Hotel and W Boston — merged their sales offices into one large team, known as the Starwood Boston Metro Market.

“We had a lot of team members that participated in other races in the city that motivated the rest of the team to start doing weekly ‘fun’ runs,” said Blades. “That turned into us signing up in 2012 for the Corporate Challenge and using this as a team building activity and a fundraising campaign.”

In effect, the Corporate Challenge has become a catalyst for a true “feel good” story for Starwood, in terms of both physical health and in giving back to the community. For example, said Blades, in addition to supporting this year’s race beneficiaries —BUILD and the Greater Boston Food Bank — Starwood is going a step further.

“What I love about this race is that each year our company raises funds for a selected organization,” said Blades. “In 2012, we raised $6,250 for Susan Komen and in 2013 we raised $8K for Boston’s One Fund.  This year, we are selecting another deserving organization that we hope to raise over $10K towards.”

It is a true company-wide effort.

"Our team,” said Blades, “ranges from hourly support staff, directors and general managers. We have also gotten participation from our operations teams at each of our hotels, we have chefs, revenue managers, housekeeping supervisors and banquet team members. Our ages range from the average of 24-40.

“Our organization pays our entry fee and we ask each of our runners to raise a minimum of $100 towards our internal selected charity,” Blades added. “We then do weekly fun runs for both beginners (couch to 5K) and more experienced runners. We love that it brings us together out of the office on a weekly practice time and on the night of the event. We feel it brings us together and pushes us all to be better.”

All told, the Corporate Challenge is an ideal fit for Starwood.

“Our brand culture is very focused on health and wellness,” said Blades. “This event allows our team to focus on this initiative and give back to the community, both pillars within our brands.”

Plus, the Corporate Challenge offers a unique race night bonus.

“My favorite thing to do as we are running is to read the shirts, see who is participating and enjoy the moments,” said Blades. “This race brings so many different organizations together with skill sets that range. It is something so special to be part of. Every year we try to create a shirt that provides the messaging appropriate for that year, and tells others who we are.”

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