A restaurant cook is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by helping his community survive the current health and economic crisis.
Leland Yu, who lost his job due to the pandemic, started his “Run For Chinatown” campaign to feed COVID-19 front-liners and boost small businesses in New York’s Chinatown.
Yu said he dreams of becoming a firefighter someday so his efforts will double as a form of physical training for him.
“Gyms are closed. I don’t have a job. I have some time on my hands,” Yu told CBS2 in an interview.
As he started getting in shape by running, he then realized what he needed to do to give back to the Asian community: Run for 12 hours and cover 60 miles throughout the city.
To put his plan into action, he enlisted the help of his family and friends to support “Run for Chinatown.”
“I thought wow, I’m actually going to do this! Or, now I actually have to do this,” he was quoted as saying.
Not wasting any time, Yu started his campaign at 7 a.m. on May 1, the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Despite the unrelenting rain that morning, Yu kept running.
“All of me felt good. My mind, body, soul,” he noted, sharing that his childhood memories suddenly came flashing back.
Since then, Yu has run a total of nearly 62 miles, raising $24,000 along the way. All of the proceeds are donated to “Welcome To Chinatown,” an organization set up to help local small businesses that have been devastated by the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Tan started the organization with co-founder Victoria Lee to help small businesses that were made vulnerable after social distancing measures and lockdowns were implemented earlier this year.
According to Lee, business declined 30-80% since news of the pandemic emerged in January.
A huge portion of the money they raised goes to their Feed Our Heroes initiative, in which meals are purchased from local restaurants at about $10 per meal, to be delivered to workers on the frontlines. Lee added that Yu’s contribution is feeding about 2,000 workers.
Encouraged by his first run’s success, Yu is planning to continue the “Run for Chinatown” tradition in the years to come as an annually organized event for the masses.
“From one little idea I had while I was out for a jog,” Yu said. “That’s a pretty good feeling.”