Have you ever considered hosting a Walk to Cure Arthritis? It may be easier than you think. With careful planning, well in advance of the event, you can start the first of many annual walks to heighten arthritis awareness.
The first thing you will need to do is to determine the venue. An ideal location would be an enclosed park where you will not need to block off public access ways. The more streets you block off, the more police officers you will need to have at your event.
Depending on your state, county, or local ordinances, you may also be required to have emergency medical technicians on site. Police officers and emergency medical technicians are necessary expenses, but the local fire department may voluntarily send a truck from the closest station to your event. Fire trucks offer another layer of security and are always a big hit with children.
You will also need to obtain a certificate of insurance that covers participants as well as the venue where the walk is being held. Most venues will require $1,000,000 coverage, but it is important to check the location’s requirements to verify the amount. A certificate of insurance can also provide coverage for vendors at the event (it is the vendor’s responsibility to inform you if they need to be added). Adding more groups to the policy should not affect the cost.
It is also important to map, measure, and walk your route in advance of the big day. Make sure there are adequate resting stations and water stops along the way. If it is a smaller venue, there is no harm in having participants walk around more than once. The venue in my city, Aaron Bessant Park, Panama City Beach, FL, is laid out in a way that lets participants make multiple circuits around the perimeter, but it is also suitable for people who can only make it around the park once.
Refreshments are an important consideration when planning your event. If you are fortunate, local businesses may donate coffee, juice, donuts, or other goodies. Do not be shy about asking your business contacts for donations of tables and chairs; you can even ask whether they are willing to volunteer some of their time on the day of the walk. Do not be surprised if some local restaurants offer to provide food. It never hurts to ask for donations when you are hosting a charity event.
A successful strategy for getting the word out to the public about your event is to contact the cable companies and TV stations in your area; many will promote your cause by running free public service announcements and some may even feature your event on their local happenings segments. I have found that local stations tend to be very generous when it comes to nonprofit endeavors.
So, how do you recruit participants? An obvious choice would be to approach individuals who have been diagnosed with 1 of the more than 100 types of arthritis, as well as their families and friends. However, college students, running stores, soccer clubs, gyms, and schools are great targets as well. Teachers and administrators who work in schools where children with arthritis are enrolled tend to be excited and enthusiastic about organizing teams of students to participate in fundraising events. Although these children may not raise a huge amount of money, their ability to heighten awareness about arthritis and other rheumatologic diseases is priceless.
The Arthritis Foundation has a link that you can share with interested participants that will allow them to register online (www.arthritis.org/get-involved/walk-to-cure-arthritis/register-today.php). I recommend including this link on your office website and all e-mail and newsletter correspondence related to the event. However, it is a good idea to make it possible for participants to register on paper as well, because there are still many people, especially older individuals, who do not want to enter their credit card information online or are not comfortable registering through a website.
As far as sponsorship is concerned, approach your pharmaceutical representatives, local hospitals, clinics, chiropractors, and fellow physicians. Health food stores, sporting goods stores, and massage therapy groups are also good contacts.
Dogs can also be plagued with arthritis, so invite local veterinarians to sponsor your event, to hang posters in their offices, and to include information about your walk in their newsletters. It is especially fun to include dogs in your event if the location permits them.
Above all else, enjoy the experience. Getting your staff involved in the planning and recruiting process can energize them and increase morale. In the end, you will have heightened awareness about arthritis, raised money to help patients with this debilitating disease, and made new friends and connections, all while having fun and supporting a great cause.
To learn more about initiating a Walk to Cure Arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation’s Volunteer Resource Center page at www.arthritis.org/get-involved/walk-to-cure-arthritis/volunteer-resource-center/.