STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A local gym owner with an extraordinary ability to inspire and help others received the Individual Philanthropist of the Year award from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation on Wednesday.
Graham Muir received some unexpected guests before his first class at his Manic Training workout gym when members of the Community Foundation surprised him with the award. Given annually, it recognizes those who exhibit significant charitable giving, insightful leadership and volunteerism and who encourage others to contribute by example.
“He is, in my opinion, the epitome of who should get the Philanthropist of the Year award,” said Laura Cusenbary, a former member of the Community Foundation board who has nominated Muir multiple times.
A New Zealand native, Muir has amassed a devoted following of clients at his gym where he emphasizes exercise as a way to not only achieve fitness goals but to gain valuable insights on living a better life.
“I’m not one of his disciples, but he just has that charisma that motivates people in such a positive way,” Cusenbary said.
Outside of the gym, Muir takes an active role in supporting charitable causes and rallying the community to help nonprofit organizations. By Cusenbary’s count, he personally enlisted half of the participants of last year’s Cody’s Challenge and consistently garners a large turnout for the Tour de Steamboat race.
When Muir sees that an event or a cause is important to someone and provides benefits to the community, he does all he can to help make it a success, Cusenbary said.
That is what happened when Mara McManus Rhodes started attending Manic Training in 2015. Rhodes had recently lost her brother to an opioid overdose and founded a nonprofit in his name, the Mark McManus Foundation, as well as the Rx Task Force, to address the issue of addiction locally.
As Rhodes explained, it was a fledgling effort when she met Muir, but after he learned about her work, he vowed to help. In 2016, Muir organized the Manic Task Force Challenge, an exercise fundraiser at the Whistler Park rugby fields. In a single day, the event raised more than $25,000 for Rhodes’ foundation, she said.
“Without Graham, my foundation wouldn’t really exist,” Rhodes said.
Apart from his philanthropic accolades, Graham has achieved impressive physical feats of his own. Last May, he pedaled a fat bike 350 miles across the Alaskan tundra in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Prior to the race, he took up the challenge of biking Lane of Pain, a grueling section of dirt road at the top of Emerald Mountain, 100 times within the same number of days to raise money for children of the villages he would be traveling through in Alaska.
Muir has been a catalyst for others looking to achieve great things.
Rhodes remembers when she was preparing for her first major bike race, a 150-mile trek through Utah called the Kokopelli. As the start of the race drew nearer, Rhodes doubted whether she could do it.
“Graham looked at me and he said, ‘You have been through so many hard things. This isn’t going to be hard. This is going to be fun,’” Rhodes recalled.
It is that type of encouragement that Muir offers everyone in his Manic Training classes.
“A lot of people who work out at Manic have overcome a lot of things,” Rhodes said, from physical disabilities to the loss of a loved one. “It’s not just about the workout. It’s how you feel about yourself and how you give back to the people around you.”
Muir is the final recipient of this year’s round of philanthropy awards. The owners of Ace Hardware in Steamboat Springs won Business Philanthropist of the Year for donating more than $1 million to local nonprofits over their 36 years in business. Maddie Craigen, a recent Steamboat Springs High School graduate, received the Youth Philanthropist of the Year award.