{ Photo by Anya Kernes }
A few months ago I organized and co-hosted a charity ride at SoulCycle to raise money for an amazing non-profit working to end child sex trafficking in Los Angeles. Aside from the great work being done by Saving Innocence, I entered into this undertaking because it was something I genuinely wanted to do and because the idea of doing it genuinely scared me! 

Planning and executing a fundraising event was one of the most difficult and stressful things I have ever done, but also one of the most fulfilling. And I chose to host the event during a ride at SoulCycle, one of the most popular indoor cycling studios in the country for the same reason I chose to raise money for Saving Innocence; both places have a simple and inspiring approach to helping others. Both places strengthen and empower what individuals already have for themselves with the support of a community. 
{ Charity Ride for Saving Innocence at SoulCycle }
 I'll admit, the first time I rode at SoulCycle I felt completely out of place, out of breath and quite frankly out of shape! Everyone seemed so hip and athletic, but not athlete athletic, but more like fashion model athletic (aka skinny with some muscle). Anyone who has been to SoulCycle in West Hollywood (or really anywhere in West Hollywood) can most likely attest to some feelings of physical inadequacy at some point or another. But after going a few times, I started to get the message. 

Yes, it was a hip and fun place with good people watching but the class had a clear and motivating message about channeling your inner SOUL and doing that as a result of acceptance, encouragement and support. "We ride as a pack" is a common SOUL theme and adjectives like "athlete, warrior, legend"are written on the wall (literally, it's on the wall). Instructors use inspirational quotes and mantras to facilitate connections between riders and the purpose of showing up. Say what you will about how cheesy this may sound and call me naive but I stand for this kind of shift from boot camps and competitions that make up so much of modern fitness culture. 
Photo by Anya Kernes }
Once I heard about charity rides happening at SoulCycle, I immediately decided it would be a great experience for everyone involved. The issue of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children is not a very comfortable or familiar topic for most people and so the idea of creating a physically and emotionally positive space to address it really spoke to me. 

My co-sponser, Rebecca Vanyo and I wanted to make this event fun and encouraging, so we chose the most upbeat instructor, Laura Crago, to lead the ride and accepted sponsorships from Sprinkles Cupcakes, M Cafe and Starbucks Coffee. Planning and executing this event was extremely challenging and rewarding at the end of the day (despite my unexpected mistake of getting the date wrong!)
Photo of Rebecca Vanyo, Laura Crago and Monica Gisele Neris by Anya Kernes }
Despite all the hoops, road blocks, sweat and major tears, I am SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY with everything this event accomplished! It's truly amazing to see the support of old and new friends, and the encouragement and kindness from individuals who really share a passion for creating some change and inspiration about the very important things in life. My hope is all young people continue to live meaningful lives in whatever pursuits they can imagine for themselves; I am so very grateful to have pursued some of mine. 
Photo by Anya Kernes }
Give back & find your SOUL!

Xx, Monica

For more information about CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) visit Saving Innocence


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