Rumen Hulmequist, who was adopted from Bulgaria, is passionate about helping children in need. So he approached Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota with an offbeat idea to raise $10,000 for its foreign adoption program.
How about if he did a routine of 10,000 push-ups, leg lifts and jumping jacks — and swam 10 miles — nonstop in one day?
“That was exciting for us,” said Lutheran Social Service Chief Development Officer Christopher Beach, whose office gave Hulmequist the thumbs-up.
Hulmequist, an exercise science major at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn., was up to the task. And his 23-hour exercise blitz led him back to Lutheran Social Service offices earlier this month, where he was honored for his efforts.
“I was a little sore on the shoulders and chest, but it was fun,” Hulmequist said. “Now I’m dreaming of what I can do next.”
The 24-year-old, who graduates from college Saturday, never expected at the start of his schooling that he’d wind up using his studies to create extreme fundraisers. But his parents, the Rev. Dale Hulme and Susan Quist of Minneapolis, were long active in social causes, so it was part of life to give back.
The idea to help orphaned children in other countries hit Hulmequist as he was watching the film “Lion,” a tale of a poor boy from India who is pulled to return to his homeland after being adopted by a well-off Australian couple.
“I personally related,” Hulmequist said. “I was adopted when I was 4. I was one of the lucky ones. I thought I could do something to help kids who literally have nothing.”
Any fundraiser of his would involve extreme exercise, as that is Hulmequist’s passion. So he came up with the goal of $10,000, created a grueling exercise formula to spur donations, and started some serious training. He contacted Lutheran Social Service with the plan, and they didn’t hesitate.
“At LSS, we are blessed with many community groups involved in fundraising,” said Beach. “What we don’t have is a lot of individuals doing it. Here was a young man who was adopted and is paying it forward.”
The extreme fundraiser started at 10 a.m. on Sept. 7 of last year. That’s when Hulme-quist dived into the pool at the Marshall Area YMCA, which hosted the marathon event, and swam his first mile.
After finishing the last lap, he pulled on some shorts and headed upstairs to the Y’s exercise room, pushing through a routine of 1,000 push-ups, leg lifts and jumping jacks. Then it was back to the pool for another mile swim. And then back upstairs.
The routine continued, 10 times.
And so the hours went by. By evening, Hulmequist’s parents and his best friend, Thomas Winston, were stationed in the exercise room, urging him on. And by 9 a.m. the next morning, he finished his final routine in the yard outside the Y, with onlookers and a local reporter to capture the moment.
“It was a dream come true,” said Hulmequist. “In those last minutes, I kept thinking about the kids who will be in a better place.”
Then came another hard part. Hulmequist hadn’t raised most of the money yet, so phase two was reaching the $10,000 goal. Because most college students don’t have a ton of wealthy friends, fundraising was not exactly a breeze.
“I got a lot of $10 here, $15 there,” he said.
But a couple of major donations came through, finally pushing the total to $10,000 this year. And two weeks ago, Lutheran Social Service organized a thank you ceremony for the marathon exerciser, complete with Beach and others posing with a giant check.
It will not be the final chapter to this story.
“I’m trying to figure out what God wants me to do next,” Hulmequist said. “It has to be bigger and better and bolder.”