When College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) Teaching Professor Jeff Salvage
isn’t instructing computer science students, he’s using his talents for good.
A former competitive race walker, Salvage has coached hundreds of fitness walking athletes ranging from beginners to marathoners and international competitors.
Beginning Sept. 1, Salvage will lend his coaching skills to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN Hospitals) program called Miracle Challenge
. The 27-day wellness challenge encourages people to achieve fitness goals while supporting one of 170 children’s hospitals across North America, including University City’s own The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
Along with former Olympic race walkers Tim and Rachel Seaman, Salvage will serve as a virtual fitness coach
to approximately 2,500 walkers. Salvage estimates they will be the largest overall group of participants in this year’s Miracle Challenge.
As participants complete daily challenges to connect with their fitness “passion” — running, cycling, studio classes, weight training or walking — they are also encouraged to raise at least $10 per day on behalf of children at their local CMN Hospital.
“We’re saying [to participants]: ‘if you can't walk one lap around a track, in 27 days we want to get you to be able to walk a 5K, and here's how to go about doing that,’” Salvage said. “And if you're already walking one or two miles a day, we'll set a goal of being able to walk a 10K at the end of the month, and here's a reasonable way to do that. It’s a good excuse for people to get out and do something.”
Salvage recently spoke about the upcoming Miracle Challenge as a guest star on CHOP’s television program, “The World Travel Broadcast” — a travel show that is broadcasted live to CHOP patients through its closed-circuit television network, Galaxy 51
. In this episode, Salvage and host Theresa Randall, also known as “Nana Feathers,” took a virtual trip to Greece where they discussed his own travel experiences in Greece and how his travels have helped fuel his passion for fitness walking.
As an undergraduate computer science student at Drexel, Salvage was the University’s first race walker and started Philadelphia’s largest race walking club. Although his career path ultimately led him to a faculty position at CCI, he continues to combine and use his skills, both as a computer scientist and as a race walker, to help charitable causes and raise awareness of the sport by developing websites, or by self-publishing books on race walking or trekking. The application of skills beyond traditional domains, or innovative thinking, is a personal philosophy that Salvage often imparts to his CCI Senior Design
students as they brainstorm on capstone project ideas.
"I encourage my students either to do something really innovative that's going to stand on technical merit, or do something that's really rewarding from a social aspect,” he said. “I'm trying to get students to think about more than just writing a game. There's nothing wrong with writing a game, but I want them figure out a game that changes the status quo."
In addition to the numerous books he has authored on the sport, Salvage is a world traveler, having recently published a book of photos of his wife, Jennifer, in her wedding dress at some of the most visually striking and remote locations across the world (One Dress, One Woman, One World
Salvage has previously coached in the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training program and for the Arthritis Society of Canada. He also co-founded the Race Walking Clinics of Excellence with Tim Seaman, which offers weekend intensive race walking clinics to athletes of all skill levels.
For Salvage, there is no better way to spend his time outside of CCI than to put his skills to work for charity.
"[Coaching has been] personally rewarding. When you take people on a trail through the Andes and they get to the other side and never thought they could, or when someone who couldn't walk two miles then finishes a marathon six months later — it's a pretty cool experience,” he said. “I know that with a minimal amount of time, I can do a lot of good.”
For more information on the Miracle Challenge and/or to learn how to participate or donate, please visit www.miraclechallenge.org