Medals4Mettle History

Compassion has run through the organization from day one.

Dr. Isenberg holding medalsThe day after he finished the 2003 Chicago Marathon, Steven Isenberg, M.D., a head and neck surgeon in Indianapolis, paid a visit to a colleague who was hospitalized. The two men were a study in contrasts. Dr. Isenberg, 53, was on a postrace high. Les Taylor, who had prostate cancer, lay flat on his back with tubes running in and out of him.

At a loss for words, Dr. Isenberg pulled his finishers' medal from his pocket and placed it around Taylor's neck. "I want you to have this," he said. "You are running a much more difficult marathon than the one I completed."

Before he died, Taylor told Dr. Isenberg how much he treasured the medal. Those words inspired Dr. Isenberg to start Medals4Mettle in 2005, as a vehicle to collect runner's medals which could be donated to those who are battling serious and debilitating illnesses and who have demonstrated similar courage and mettle in fighting those illnesses.

Certainly everyone cannot run a marathon, but people who are battling life-threatening illnesses and severe disabilities demonstrate mettle everyday. Marathon runners experience the cheers of support from total strangers as they run through the streets, and these same runners cheer the wheelchair competitors that they may pass on the course. Medals4Mettle celebrates our collective human courage, and our innate desire to reward and support each other as we all face life’s challenges.

Since 2005, Medals4Mettle has been featured as the Grand Prize selection for the inaugural “Human Race” section of Runner’s World (September, 2008) and in many local and national publications. Medals4Mettle was also selected as the initial recipient of “The Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine” award (2009). By 2010, Medals4Mettle had awarded over 18,000 medals to recipients across the world including events in London and Paris where Dr. Isenberg personally awarded American medals to sick children and their families. Medals have been awarded by Indy 500 race car drivers, Olympic athletes and individuals who want to experience the incredible joy of giving their hard-earned finisher’s medals to courageous human beings.

What is the niche for Medals4Mettle?

M4M is a different kind of charity that does not seek to compete with other charities for valuable dollars. Medals4Mettle's mission is to provide an opportunity for endurance athletes and runners to pay it forward by enabling the gifting and awarding of earned medals to others who demonstrate similar mettle, or courage, as they face life's challenges. Nearly every dollar donated goes directly to buy ribbons and pay minor expenses associated with our 501c3 public charity. Each of our dedicated staff is an unpaid volunteer and we network by email and conference calls from our homes and personal offices around the world to accomplish our mission.

M4M links our website to numerous charitable organizations to offer medal winners the opportunity to identify a recipient prior to the event. It is also our hope that this will provide the runner the opportunity to get to know the recipient or a charitable cause, and learn more about the handicap, disease or other problem that they have faced so courageously. Only a portion of marathon runners run for a charity and M4M believes that the simple gifting of a finisher’s medal is a subtle but effective way to introduce the concept of charitable running.

Medals4Mettle offers everyone the opportunity to pay it forward. While we appreciate monetary donations to buy the ribbons that we affix to your donated medals, M4M will accept your medal without any cash donation. In this way, philanthropy is accomplished without the requirement for large monetary donations.

The vision of Medals4Mettle

M4M has experienced remarkable success in its brief history, but we have only just begun. Medals4Mettle will spread across the globe as an international currency of human goodwill and support regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender or cultural differences. Those who are fortunate enough to have the physical ability to complete endurance events salute and honor the mettle of those who must struggle through much greater challenges in life. Donated medals are awarded to children and others regardless of race, religion or nationality. Since we all share our humanity, Medals4Mettle will continue to grow globally as a symbol of mutual respect.

Who is the leader of Medals4Mettle?

Steven F. Isenberg, MD, is the Founder and CEO of Medals4Mettle. He is a marathon runner, published poet and writer, businessman, and an ear, nose and throat and head and neck surgeon. Dr. Isenberg has successfully managed a 501c3 previously and is familiar with the challenges. The idea for M4M originated from Dr. Isenberg’s practice of giving his marathon finisher medals to his patients.

A Poem for Medals4Mettle

I want to open the door,
To a beautiful spring day,
Sweeping leaves off the threshold,
That wilted where they lay.

Rising from your pillow,
For pleasure, not for pain.
Replacing the scent of sick,
With that of newborn rain.

Watching your patient eyes,
In shallow sockets roll,
Viewing a colorful ribbon-
Lifting your soul.

Taking you for a moment,
Where courage needs no place,
Watching this gifted medal,
Bring a smile to your face.

Steven F Isenberg MD

david and mary

Mother battling breast cancer and son fighting leukemia pose with their Medals4Mettle medals.

Note from a parent:

I just wanted to drop a note to you and let you know that my son and I met a few of your volunteers tonight. She even gave my son a special medal from your organization. This is my son's second visit to Riley's Children's Hospital. We are trying really hard to get my son to gain weight. He is doing okay for now. Any who, I just wanted you to know that the lady we met tonight was awesome and very nice. Thank you so very much and thank you for giving my son the best smile of all.