SELF-Made Woman Who Inspires
The founder of Project Athena, a non-profit that helps women overcome life-altering medical setbacks, shares some major motivation tips with us.
By Madeline Buxton
When Robyn Benincasa, a life-long athlete and firefighter based in San Diego, had to undergo major surgery, she was inspired to start a non-profit organization, dubbed Project Athena, that would help other women experiencing medical setbacks regain physical prowess. Launched in 2009, Project Athena has helped over 150 women who’ve survived various medical maladies—think cancer, brain surgery—and have helped these ladies take on bucket-list-style adventures. The non-profit covers all of its beneficiaries’ expenses, like coaching and equipment, and has sponsored everything from a trek across the Grand Canyon to a climb up the San Jacinto Mountains. Benincasa spoke with us about her daily life as a full-time firefighter, why she doesn’t consider running Project Athena a “job” and what the keys are to really being a good leader.
A Good Leader Always… “Focuses on inspiring the people around her versus impressing them.”
Why I Love Volunteering… “I love helping people discover how strong they are, and what great leaders and teammates they can be. I’m lucky and grateful that I get to do that almost every day.”
On Achieving Work-Life Balance… “I always tell people that I haven’t worked a day in years. I actually have two full-time jobs, as a firefighter and as a motivational speaker, but neither of them feels like work because I love them both so much. My part-time, volunteer job of running the operations and adventures of the Project Athena Foundation is the icing on the cake. It all works because I’m surrounded by the best team in the world.”
On My To-Do List… “Clean, consolidate and reorganize my house! There’s half packed and unpacked bags and suitcases everywhere. I’d rather travel than have a nice house, so scaling down and reorganizing has been on my to-do list for a couple of years now.”
In My Purse Is… “I don’t own a purse, but I have a backpack that has my entire life in it! We call it the Intergalactic Headquarters for the World Class Teams and the Project Athena Foundation. Inside you’ll always find dental floss, a Think Thin or other protein bar, my iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, power cords, and, yes, an old school Franklin day planner. I love my paper calendar!”
My Daily Workout… “I use my indoor Kayak ERG machine and do intervals while watching sports on my iPad, go to workout classes at Orangetheory or run the stairs at the beach in Cardiff.”
The Most Influential Book I’ve Read… “The Catcher in the Rye. It was the first time I realized that everyone is weird and weird is pretty normal. In fact, the statement ‘people are weird’ is something I say just about every day. And it’s true—we all are. And it’s OK!”
The Last Thing I Do Before Bed… “Kiss my dog, Valentine—and my fiancé, Jeff, who has been my foundation and most awesome support system for the last sixteen years. We met in the fire academy.”
To learn more about Robyn Benincasa and her role as a leader check out her page here