May 23, 2024

Eric Haapaoja Hyendure Running

During the 2021 holiday season, MMC Contractors - Las Vegas Superintendent Eric Haapaoja and his family encountered the start of an ongoing trial when his wife was diagnosed with anti-MOG disease.

This autoimmune disorder disrupts nerve signal transmission and causes inflammation in the central nervous system. What started as a sinus infection developed into a vision impairment, causing her to lose all vision in one eye and 80% in the other. Eric and his wife had up to five doctor appointments in a day and were constantly on the phone with medical and insurance providers, looking for a path to recovery from her condition.

As the family continued to deal with this new challenge for months, they became increasingly drained—self-care becoming an afterthought. His father-in-law reached out to Eric, inquiring about his health and mental well-being as he continued to be the sole caretaker for his wife and children during such a challenging time, reminding him that caring for loved ones is even more difficult when your cup is empty.  

In the following weeks, Eric’s wife’s health began to improve, and Eric had taken his father-in-law’s advice to heart. He started waking up at 3 a.m. and going to the gym. Not long after he’d established this routine, the MMC Corp Summer Wellness Challenge kicked off. He swapped his gym visits for runs to get in his 10,000 daily steps, reigniting his love for running. 

As things with his family began to stabilize and his wife regained her vision, Eric had a renewed capacity and desire to pay his gratitude forward. He ran his first marathon and decided that if he would run longer races, he wanted to find a way to give back to the people and organizations that had helped him and his family through the challenging times they’d endured.

“So many people helped us in big and small ways when we were in need,” Eric said. “I talked to a friend running a race to help raise money for a charity, and it inspired me to do something similar.”

Through his research, Eric found that there wasn’t a set blueprint for linking races to charitable giving without the race being hosted by a specific charity. With a strong sense of Entrepreneurial Spirit leading the way, he created a website building that blueprint, and from it came Hyendure Running.

Hyendure was created to allow flexibility in the organizations it supports, providing an opportunity to fundraise for multiple charities at different times. Through Hyendure, individuals can sponsor Eric in his races by pledging a dollar amount per mile-ran and donating to a Hyendure-partnered charity of their choice. 

“If I can use Hyendure to not only care for my mental and physical health but impact others along the way, that’s what I want to do.”

When creating Hyendure, Eric took inspiration from his wife, who had to re-learn how to navigate certain aspects of daily life with impaired vision. He shared that she immediately adopted a strong mentality and was unwilling to falter or break down. Using the lessons she had learned to re-adapt, she figured out what worked best for her new normal and adopted an outlook that while she could not control what had happened, she could control how she reacted. 

“It’s easy to have endurance when you know where the finish line is,” he said. “It’s incredibly challenging to have that same endurance when you don’t know when it will end. My goal for Hyendure is to be an “aid station” for people who need a reprieve from whatever race in life they’re running at that moment.”

He can do just that by supporting non-profits like the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) or Folds of Honor — both of which are current Hyendure charitable partners, alongside the No Ninja Left Behind Foundation.

Eric chose the Hyena to represent Hyendure Running, noting that their hearts are twice the size of most mammals. This makes them high-endurance animals and ties well to Hyendure’s mission to make a difference for people facing intense life trials. 

In creating Hyendure Running, Eric has seen positive impacts on his well-being and how he works with and relates to others on the job. The trials his family has endured have led him to become more patient with the people he interacts with and the problems he solves. 

Eric will participate in the Chesterfield Gorge Ultra 100 Mile race on June 1. To learn more about how to support Hyendure Running visit hyendure-running.com.

On behalf of the Caring Heart Foundation and everyone at our organization, thank you, Eric, for your willingness to go above and beyond to support those in need. 

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