We all have special causes that pull at our heartstrings. It may be diabetes or heart disease, Alzheimer’s or cancer, abused women and children or a local event to help a citizen of the community. Most often the cause is something dear, a disease or condition that a love one has or has had or that took away a life. Fulfilling the role of organizer and project coordinator is a job you might enjoy. It will enrich your life and add to your personal sense of well-being while increasing awareness for friends and neighbors. Two years ago I began our local walk/run for Alzheimer’s disease. Each year it has grown and each year more people express their thanks that they can participate in something important and know that they are making a difference.
So suppose you want to design a walk/run. First, find a locale. Do you want the event inside where you count time or laps or outside where you set up a course? Do you have a distance in mind? A first event might just be a 3K (about 1.5 miles) or if you are in the gym, say, 50 laps. It is not hard to make the event longer, it just takes a bit more planning to get the course outlined. Name your event something that relates to the cause, something fun and catchy. Play with words until the right combination emerges. Add a logo, too, again something that relates to the cause and/or the day of the event. Decide on price and a goal. Is your goal big money or public awareness? In my town we charge $25 for adults and they receive a great long-sleeved shirt. We pay about $11 for these through a local business. People love them and rave about the quality and how nice it was to have long sleeves. The rest of the proceeds stay local for Alzheimer’s education and caregiver respite.
To get the community involved you will need publicity such as posters, flyers, radio announcements, and community interest spots on television. Most folks in charge of radio and TV stations are helpful and supportive. Recruit high school students to distribute posters and flyers, do radio and TV spots, manage the route or count laps on event day, and run errands for you. Honor society and student council members are always looking for service hours and your cause might be a perfect fit.
The night before the event run around and grab all of the essentials: PA system, tables and chairs for registration helpers, special notes for the announcer, treats for after the event, and so forth. Rise early the morning of and check out the course for obstacles and surprises. Then head to the start line a couple of hours early. Have paper and pens for registration, shirts organized by size (if you are handing them out), raffle prizes or other items folks can win just for attending and supporting the cause, and goodies for the finish line. At our walk/race we have bananas, water, and chocolate milk. You may not know this but that last one is the prized award at many races and coveted by runners. Local businesses will usually donate to a cause as worthy as yours.
If you are inside play music; if you are outside have people along the route with their radios playing or have the local high school cheerleaders in uniform chanting and singing as well as directly the flow of participants. These add to the festivities. It is fun to take pictures of people beforehand or out on the route. It is an excellent gift and good PR for next year. Local sports teams like to help out and it is a fine way to get community recognition. The track and cross-country teams are ideal for running events as are wrestlers, soccer, volleyball, and basketball players. Kids come and so do their parents and friends.
It is really pretty easy to start an event – a little pre-planning, a little publicity, some volunteers for registration, an announcer, people along the route to send runners/walkers in the right direction, and awards at the end. Everyone leaves with that satisfied feeling of having participated in an important cause.