We had the good fortune of connecting with Anthony Bailey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anthony, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
That is a wonderful question and an answer I love to share. But, to have others understand the full context, I must take you back, back to my upbringing. I was born and raised in the Antelope Valley, a beautiful desert community about an hour north of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, my upbringing was not so pretty. I was born into a very dysfunctional household. My parents who were heroin addicts divorced when I was only 3 months old. My mother then went on to another man who would become my stepfather. Even though he had a good job and was able to provide for my mother, sister and I, he also had his share of demons – Drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder and rage issues. Despite the regular occurrence of physical and mental abuse he would cause to all of us, for my younger years we almost had a “normal” life with a brand-new home, new cars and nice green grass. But eventually his drug addiction worsened and led him to have drug induced schizophrenic hallucinations. Convinced there were “Russians” spying on him, living in our attic. He would spend hours looking for these imaginary people. He would eventually turn on us, thinking we were a part of it. This would lead to many acts of physical, mental violence and interrogations. As an 8-year-old this was terrifying. And since my mother was going through her own issues with addiction and depression due to a very abusive upbringing, she was unable to protect us from his rages. Eventually, he lost that good job, the green grass turned brown, the nice cars repossessed, and eventually losing that new home. We then moved into a trailer park where the drug and alcohol addictions of both my mother and stepfather greatly escalated. We were on government assistance, that was mostly used to fuel their addictions. The cops coming to our home for a domestic disturbance call was not out of the ordinary. To escape this, I would spend as much time away from home as possible by hanging out with friends or going to school. Since food was rarely provided at home I depended on school and the kindness of my friend’s parents for food. Luckily at the age of 17 I got a job and once I turned 18, I moved out of that chaotic environment. Since I was on self-defense mode for most of my life up to that point, I had no idea who I was and had to learn to navigate on my own which was difficult due to the fact that I was extremely shy, had low self-esteem and was emotionally withdrawn. At 21, I went to a party with a friend where I had my first shot of alcohol. I learned from that point that alcohol was the cure to my extreme shyness. Even though I witnessed from my parents the effects of alcohol can have and vowed never to repeat that. After that first shot and the feeling of confidence it gave me, I was hooked. At first, it was a fun weekend thing while hanging out with my friends: going to bars, clubs, and just embracing the party scene. What started off as just a weekend thing over the years started becoming more frequent. Fast forward 14 years later. I would spend most nights sitting on my porch drinking and smoking cigarettes or hanging out at a dark dingy bar surrounded by negative, self-deprecating people like myself. I had a good job with the City of Santa Monica as a motor coach operator that let me provide for myself and my son, (who I had from a previous relationship), an apartment, a nice car. Way more than I ever thought I would have growing up. But there was always that little voice in my head that would constantly nag me that I am better than that. Better than the woe is me Anthony who never strived to for success and who blamed it all on his upbringing. I was convinced that I was not good enough and just settled for what I had. At 35, I finally decided to listen to that voice. I was sick of the hangovers and the bad life decisions. It was not over night, but I started going to the bars less and to the gym and church more. Shortly after, I met my darling Jen. When we met, I was still smoking and drinking a bit, but after 6 months she gave me the ultimatum, its either her or the cigarettes. That was the final push I needed. With my darling’s love, support and constant encouragement (things I never had in any previous relationships), my self-esteem boosted and fueled me to take on a “go getter” mentality. That led me to participate and complete my first marathon at the age of 40 in the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon. I ran the entire 26.2 miles and officially shed the skin of the person I used to be. Later that year, I married my darling where I gained two bonus children. The next year I was training for the 2018 LA Marathon and instead of doing it for personal gain, I decided I wanted to do it for charity. The organization I decided to do it for was a non-profit in the Antelope Valley called Grace Resources. They help those who are homeless while also helping prevent homelessness. The reason I chose them was years earlier my mothers’ addictions and depression led her to being homeless on the cold streets of the Antelope Valley. They would provide her with food, clothing or just an open ear to talk to. Without them, I do not think she would have been able to survive. She was able to get off the streets and live the remainder of her life with family, rebuilding relationships and enjoying being a grandma. She passed at 54 of cirrhosis. That grassroots fundraiser was called “Run for Grace” where it reached its goal of $1500. The next year, we did it again, but with a team instead of a solo effort. That team of kindhearted individuals which included my wife raised over $3500. In 2020, the team grew and raised over $7500. My wife and I feel so blessed to have what we do and genuinely enjoy giving back to our community that we decided to take that grassroots fundraiser and turn it into our own non-profit, Run for Grace Inc. Our mission is to help those in need, the less fortunate and to assist in the prevention of homelessness while promoting an active lifestyle with an emphasis on running.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The main way we at Run for Grace help those in need is by building teams to participate in various running events i.e., 5k, 10k, half and full marathons to use as platforms to fundraise for local non-profits or causes. But unfortunately, due to the pandemic and most races being cancelled we had to pivot and think of other ways to fulfill our mission during this challenging time. For example, last summer we created a running club called Sunset Bounty Running Club, which is an affiliate club of the LA Road Runners. In lieu of paying dues, all we asked of the members was to make a small, itemized donation towards the specific nonprofit we sponsored that month. But due to the pandemic and for the safety of the members, that club is currently on hiatus. So right now, we are going back to our roots of me participating alone in events to fundraise. From March 5th-7th I did the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge (4 miles, every 4 hours, for 48 hours) to benefit the Children’s Center of the Antelope Valley (CCAV), a nonprofit whose mission is to protect the children of the Antelope Valley from abuse through prevention. Treatment and education. Since I am a survivor of child abuse, we felt this was a perfect fit. To bring a bigger awareness to this fundraiser, we decided to have each leg be sponsored by a local business where I would start and end from. We are so thankful that all available legs were sponsored. With the support of those business sponsors and the generosity of our community, that fundraiser not only surpassed the goal of $448, but reached over 5 times the goal by reaching $2700! We are so excited that we are able to still give back to our community, despite the challenges of the pandemic. I believe we got to where we are today is by the relationships we have built throughout our community, not only with businesses, but with likeminded individuals who simply love to give back. This journey thus far has not been easy but keeping the in mind how far we have come and being excited about what the future holds helps us to stay motivated. One of the big lessons we have learned along the way is that plans can change very quickly which has forced us to learn to keep on our toes and make pivots as said through the example above. Another is not everyone is going to support you or your vision and that is okay, because the ones that do, make up for them significantly. Lastly, this is something I am still struggling with, but do not fret over those who do not support. Only focus on those who are. What we want the world to know about our story is that we are just two people who have overcome tough situations that are striving to make a positive impact in the world. If we can do it, anyone can. Do not be imprisoned by your past. Use it as motivation to help others.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oooh how fun! What is great about my hometown, the Antelope Valley is it doesn’t have all the traffic that Los Angeles does. After working in Santa Monica for over 15 years I have learned to appreciate that. However, that does not mean I don’t mind getting out of here when I can and heading back south of the 14 freeway from time to time. My wife and I love heading to Venice to walk through Abbot Kinney Blvd. get an ice cream from Salt and Straw and have a romantic walk through the Venice Canals while enjoying the sunset. Afterwards, get back in the car and head to the Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga and enjoy a candle lit dinner under the stars with a view of a waterfall. It is quite an experience. The next morning we would pack up a few days of food and take them somewhere where they can detach from it all, head north about 2 and a half hours from the Antelope Valley to Lone Pine and take in Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States. We go there every summer and it gives us the sounds of nature you just cant get in a big city.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I know without a doubt that I would not be where I am today without the love, support and guidance of my darling wife, Jen Bailey. She is one of the strongest people I know. Before we met, she endured a ten-year relationship with her ex-husband who was a drug addict that included domestic violence and extreme gaslighting. This led her to questioning her own sanity on numerous occasions. Over those years, his manipulation killed her self-esteem and took a toll on her mental health. One day, after finding a baggie of drugs in the kids toy room, she finally had enough of the empty promises that he was going to quit and made the brave decision for the safety of her 2 young children to leave that relationship secretly while he was in rehab. Embarrassed of the situation, she did not want to tell her family and left with little help. It was not easy, but with years therapy she has regained her voice, self-esteem and has that strong mama bear mentality and is now an advocate against domestic violence. As the co-owner of Run for Grace, Inc., she has taken on much of the correspondence side of the business. Which is something I am incredibly grateful for because that is definitely not my strong suit. She also has a good way of keeping me in check when my ideas may be too much for “right now”. I think it is especially important to have that balance as business owners.
Other: Run for Grace website: www.runforgrace.org @runforgrace