Helena Redshaw loves Shakespeare, learned how to swim at 40 and wants to encourage everyone else to expand their fitness worlds, so of course it follows that she would invent The Mermaid Club. And 3,400 people would follow along, she'd end up doling out T-shirts and there would be an annual 5K for fun.
"It was a crazy, hare-brained idea of mine, and it's turned into a beast," says Redshaw, of Coconut Creek.
Redshaw's "International Mermaid Day" is set for 7 a.m. Sunday in Boca Raton and includes the run, yoga and children's activities.
Redshaw, 43, has always been a runner, and three years ago she picked up swimming for triathons. Her friends started calling her "the running mermaid."
She liked the nickname, and used it to motivate more people to be fit.
"The joke is, that by the time anyone stops by my desk, I have them signed up for a 5K," says Redshaw, a project manager for a media company.
In September 2013, she created The Mermaid Club on Facebook, encouraged by stories that Shakespeare supposedly joined in conversations with a literary group that met at a pub one Friday a month. The name: The Mermaid Tavern.
"I felt like I could encourage my friends to make a change, set goals," she says. "So I made a logo, then a T-shirt and created a website."
The slogan is "Live Life and Make Waves," and she employs other mermaid mantras, such as: "Mermaids are afraid of shallow living but they're not afraid of the depth."
"That applies to everything," she says. "Fitness, wellness, life …"
When someone new signs up (it's free, and also open to males, known as "mer-men,") she asks everyone to post on social media (#LiveLifeMakeWaves). Redshaw then re-posts, with the idea that everyone can use a couple minutes of fame and encouragement.
"Before you know it, I'm at almost 3,500 likes on Facebook and people are buying T-shirts," she says. "Ambassadors" wear clothes with mermaid logos and spread the message at events, such as the Thursday night "Run and Chug" starting from Running Wild in Fort Lauderdale and ending at Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort.
Last July, she created "International Mermaid Day," and on Sept. 7, 300 people showed up in Delray Beach. (The event moved to Boca Raton this year.) Other mermaids, via Facebook, have coordinated about 15 meetups for Sunday, including in Los Angeles, Australia and Sarasota.
"I don't know if I can keep up enough to have a third annual event," she says. "We'll just have to see."
Sunday's event benefits Girls on the Run Palm Beach, which provides motivation and fitness opportunities to pre-teen girls (GirlsontheRunPBC.org).
International Mermaid Day is set for 7 a.m. at the Spanish River Athletics Complex, 1000 Spanish River Blvd., Boca Raton. Cost is $25 for the untimed 5K run and includes yoga and other offerings. Go to LiveLifeMakeWaves.com to register.