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Most charity runs and walks have a ‘no dogs allowed’ policy. Not so at the Southwestern Guide Dogs walkathons, a series of walking events in Florida that raise money for the organization.
“It’s wonderful to see people bringing their dogs to these events,” says Andy Kramer, the development director of the Palmetto, FL-based nonprofit that has trained hundreds of guide dogs. “You can’t help but see families with their dogs and not smile.”
At each of the nine events held during the summer, Kramer says, the organization’s guide dog trainers are also invited to bring their puppies and current trainee dogs to the event. The puppies, which Kramer calls “Goldadorables,” are a special cross breed of Labradors and Golden Retrievers. “This breed produces wonderful guide dogs that are able to form and nurture partnership with visually impaired individuals, facilitating their life’s journeys with mobility, independence and integrity,” he says.
Promotional items play a major part in the Southeastern Guide Dogs Walkathons, starting with fundraising awards. “For example, if someone raises $100 for an event, they get a monogrammed T-shirt,” Kramer says, “$250 gets you a branded tumbler. In addition, every attending dog gets a logoed bandana and we also bring lots of branded promotional items from our gift shop, including hats, shirts and leashes, for sale at our events.”
This year’s events raised a whopping $835,000 for the charity – a new record.
The Guide Dog Walkathons are expanding to two new locations next year. “We’ve been able to grow new events in markets where we are not as well-known via grass roots fundraising campaigns that net us more friends and sponsors and help us provide more dogs to the visually impaired,” Kramer says. “Recently, Publix and Subaru came on board, which shows that success breeds success.”
Also on tap for the 2016 season: Participants will be invited to design the logoed T-shirts that will be used as event giveaways. “We work really hard to build excitement for these events each year, and the promotional products we incorporate really help do that,” Kramer says.
These picturesque events run through the sacred homeland of the Lakota Sioux, starting at Rochford, South Dakota and ending in the historic town of Deadwood. "Great scenery and an opportunity to tie in the runs with a vacation in the beautiful Black Hills make it a family-friendly venue," says race director Emily Wheeler of Rapid City-based Wheeler Events Management. "We had a fantastic turnout for this year's runs with over 3,400 registrations from 44 states, Canada and as far away as New Zealand."
A wide selection of branded products including hats, hoodies, shirts, badges and jackets helped make the marathons a success. "Our most popular promotional items were quarter-zip jackets emblazoned with the race logos," says Wheeler. "These are something for the racers to take back home with them and wear as a memory of the event. Participating moms and dads also bought jackets and shirts for their children."
According to Wheeler, the Half Marathon garnered the most entries, "because it's obviously shorter and mostly downhill which makes it attractive for folks who want to compete but aren't able to put in as much training time." Wheeler also sponsors the Run Crazy Horse event in October where runners end their journey at the giant hand of the fabled Crazy Horse Monument. This event features unique promotional items such as branded horse tank and shooter shirts.
It was a sea of white in late May for the Yonkers, NY-based Paideia School 15 annual charity event – a 1.5-mile walk followed by a spring carnival. With more than 500 elementary school students – and quite a few parents – decked out in crisp white T-shirts, the day-long event was designed to raise money to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. And that it did, in spades.
From sales of T-shirts, food and tickets to carnival games spread across the school’s playground following the walk – as well as donations and sponsorships of students for the walk – the school raised nearly $16,000 for its chosen charity of the year.
“It was really a great day that brought out the best in our school and in our community,” said Michael Shapiro, principal of Paideia School 15. “The purpose of the shirts was to demonstrate unity for the entire learning community.”
In fact, for some of the students the T-shirts even became a yearbook of sorts, as they had their friends sign the fronts, backs and sleeves. It was all-over imprinting at its most basic. The T-shirts also served a purpose to raise money, as the school sold about 100 additional shirts at $12-$15 apiece (advance sales got a discount) for a total of more than $1,000. Plus, the school gave its teachers and staff red shirts with the same imprints to help them stand out during the event.
“The fundraising aspect of the event really went great, and the T-shirts certainly helped to give the whole thing a celebratory feel,” Shapiro said. “Our impression of everything was very positive. It was a continuation of creating a culture based on the importance of civics and responsibilities.”