Want your kids to get excited about fitness? A certain Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle might just be the one to inspire them.
“I believe we were all put here to do something that we were supposed to do,” says Matt Hill. “I’d like to connect with a million kids and inspire a million kids and make this the fittest planet.”
As soon as Hill says hello, enthusiasm sparking with every syllable, you can hear the echoes of the characters he’s played as a voice actor: Ton Ton on the Emmy Award-winning series Dinotrux; Tach on Kate & Mim Mim; and most famously, Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
But it’s in his role as Run for One Planet ambassador that he’s found his true calling.
From May 2008 to May 2009, inspired by the documentary An Inconvenient Truth and by his childhood hero Terry Fox, Hill and his friend Steph Tait ran a marathon a day, 17,700 kilometres around North America.
Initially, the idea was to raise awareness for environmental issues. But he quickly realized the mission had to be more than that. Along the way Hill and Tait visited 220 schools, always encouraging the kids to come for a run with them. They were shocked to find only about 10 per cent of them could actually do the runs.
“We met the kids because we wanted to inspire them to make a healthy choice for the planet. But if I could rename it, I’d call it Fit Kids for a Fit Planet,” he says.
It turned out that “get fit” was a message kids were happy to hear from a Ninja Turtle. So, when Hill got home, he continued spreading the message through a series of motivational TEDx talks. In 2016, all that inspirational leadership won him the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal.
“My eyes were welling up with shock and pride and awe,” Hill says. “It was one of those life-shaper moments.”
As the 10th anniversary of Run for One Planet approaches, he’s considering taking his message out on the road again.
“With our tour I wanted to inspire an entire continent to make a change. I wanted to inspire 330 million North Americans to make a change,” he says. “Now as my next chapter, it’s sharing this message even further. As long as I’m on this planet, this is what I’m meant to do.”