Distance running is one of Mike Fedele's passions.
Helping the less fortunate is another.
The founder of the Fedele and Associates accounting firm in 1996, the Hammond man has been running marathons since 2000.
Around that time, he also spent a life-altering three months in Haiti, where he witnessed the first-hand poverty that is unfathomable to most of us who don't want for food, clothing and a home.
The inspiring experience prompted Fedele to buy land and build the Maranatha Orphanage and Primary School in the destitute island country.
"I've always had a heart for the neglected, the abused, the misfits of the world," Fedele said. "I grew up around people with serious physical problems. I was taught at a young age to never think I was better than anybody else, to be grateful for what I had, and to give back."
On January 27, Fedele will run in the Miami Marathon. The Boston Marathon qualifier is targeting his first sub-three-hour finish.
"I feel like I have it in me, if I train properly," he said.
Fedele will have plenty of wind beneath his feet in his pursuit.
He will be running with one of three Life for the World groups (Chicagoland, New York and Miami) who are participating to raise $180,000 so they can build more dormitories at Maranatha, which currently houses 224 children.
Tremendous progress has been made -- the orphanage/school opened with just a handful of kids -- but the race is far from over.
In conjunction with the race, Fedele is aiming to generate sponsors for 500 children, which cost $30 a month. Life for the World enables donors to get to know who they are helping with individual videos of the child and the means to exchange letters with them.
"I preach to the younger generation, but I'm not sure they're listening," Fedele said. "They claim they care, but it's just a lot of big words. They're not putting any of their own assets on the table. If they really cared, they would sacrifice something. If they'd just give up one of their caramel macchiatos a week, we could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars."
As if Fedele's story isn't already uplifting, there's more. He suffered a heart attack in 2009 and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
"I was scared to death," he said. "I still ran, but I wasn't fit."
Fedele radically changed his diet and dropped 40 pounds from 175 to 135, which is 10 from his high school weight. The 50-year old has a scant 8.1 percent body fat.
"I got fast again," Fedele said. "I really feel great."
Strong in mind and body, there doesn't seem to be anything that can stop Fedele from reaching his goals for Miami, whether it's dollars for the orphanage or minutes off his race time.
"It's all for the kids," he said.
For information about how to get involved in any way, shape or form, go to www.lifefortheworld.com.
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at email@example.com.