Why would anyone CHOOSE to coordinate a walk.
I am the current walk coordinator for the Denver Walk for Apraxia of Speech, benefiting the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America.
Before I was walk coordinator, I was merely a first year participant who had signed my family up to walk for my daughter Ashlynn. I remember signing up at the very last minute right before the T-shirt deadline. I did this, despite knowing about it for months before; because I wanted to make sure nothing else more important came up. It didn’t, so in 2014, we attended the Denver Walk for Apraxia. I had no idea what to expect. I just figured it would be some boring walk around the lake, but it would benefit CASANA, and that would be a good thing for awareness.
I do remember receiving emphatic emails from the current coordinator about raising money, everyone donating even just five more dollars etc etc, for us to meet our goal. She had a goal of 30k and I’m pretty sure they met it that year. I never asked for donations or solicited anyone outside our immediate circle despite this. I honestly figured, what could my meager attempts do? Leave it to the big wigs and people with connections to bring in the money.
The walk was AMAZING. I had NO idea Ashlynn would receive a medal in a medal ceremony, or that there would be activities beforehand that would be fun. I WAS on the email lists telling me this stuff, but for some reason, I must have missed them.
After that walk though, I couldn’t imagine Ashlynn not having another. The previous walk coordinators were stepping down after 7 years or so, and they were asking for new volunteers. I did actually read these emails, but I just assumed someone else would take the place. I seriously had no buy in, and no culpability.
Come February or so of 2015, I was talking to Sharon Gretz, the executive director of CASANA, and through the course of the conversation I realized there wasn’t going to be a Denver walk that year.
What???? I inquired.
Well, the previous coordinators stepped down, and there is no one to run it, was the answer. If someone doesn’t step up soon, there can’t be a walk this year since planning needs to start months in advance.
Shit. In that moment I KNEW I had to do it. The experience had been SO amazing for Ashlynn and our family that I couldn’t imagine her not having that again.
I’m already stretched super thin. I have this desire to be as involved a mom as possible while being an SLP. I’m working at my children’s school during the day, and then working nights and weekends so my children can be with their father when I am not there. How on EARTH would I plan a walk? Screw it. Minor details that don’t matter because apparently if I don’t, the walk won’t happen this year.
I pitched it to my husband. The answer was pretty much…
Without going into detail, his reasons were valid. He knows me and he knows I would devote all this time and energy I already don’t have into this. Long story short and many compromises later…I ended up being the Denver Walk Coordinator last year. I originally began not feeling any particular commitment to it, other than making sure Ashlynn was honored as she was the year before. I hate to admit my husband was right, but the Type A in me started whispering to me that I can’t have my name attached to an event and not have it be the best I could do.
To make a walk happen is fairly easy. Set the date, secure the place, tell your immediate people about it, sort the walk day materials for the small gathering, and you’re set.
To make a LARGE walk happen, and a walk I felt I could be proud of, takes WAAAAYYYYY more work. I decided I wanted food at my walk, I wanted entertainment and family fun. I wanted the award ceremony to be powerful so I wanted music. I wanted the day remembered picture perfectly, so I wanted a photographer. I wanted the kids to have fun, like at a carnival, so I wanted games, and clowns, and characters. I didn’t want people to be bored, so I wanted activities.
I didn’t want people to be hungry or thirsty, so I wanted food and beverages. Oh, and I wanted to make more money for CASANA so I wanted an awesome raffle table that would entice people to buy more raffle tickets with all proceeds going back to CASANA.
Oh, and in the middle of all of it, I became 100% committed to CASANA. They keep their staff small and centralized to Pittsburgh, and rely on the help of walk volunteers around the country to raise their money. The reason for this, is to maximize the amount of money raised going directly BACK into the community to help our kids via research, iPads, grants for speech therapy etc.
I realized I wanted to help maximize their goal. CASANA was life changing for my family. I needed to raise enough money so they are life changing for as many families as possible in my position. It literally becomes an obsession and a vocation. I went from only caring about honoring Ashlynn, to making sure I raise enough money to help every kid and family possible affected by CAS in North America. I’m not exaggerating people.
THIS is the job of a walk coordinator. It is soooo much more than just organizing a walk that gives everyone warm and fuzzy feelings. You become so personally invested. You can’t understand why people register late. You can’t understand why people don’t make it their priority. You can’t understand why people are only peripherally involved. You can’t understand why people don’t understand they need to register. You can’t understand why people are okay with buying shirts from other people to attend your event. You become SO obsessed with not only helping your own child, but realizing how much your own child benefited, that you now want to help EVERY SINGLE child who has struggled like your own.
Oh, and might I add, it’s easy to do when you know the staff at CASANA. As a walk coordinator, you become personally involved with them, and by personally becoming involved with them, you realize even MORE, if you didn’t before…….how this non-profit you are out raising money for, is truly staffed with selfless people. You hear these horror stories on the news all the time of executive directors taking thousands of dollars in profit from the “non-profit.” Not true at CASANA. You learn what these people make and I honestly think they SHOULD be making more for all the hours they put into this non-profit. When you, in your heart, believe, like I do, that the staff at CASANA (all of them) should be making more than they earn because they truly EARN every single penny…..you are ALL IN. Every single dollar counts.
I wish I knew that my first walk. I thought I was a peon. The money I could bring in meaningless. People, as walk coordinator, I have literally organized fundraisers that only made $50. When I think of the amount of time and effort it took to set it up and to try and get people to go, and in my mind, we are still $50 closer to our goal, I ASSURE you, any and ALL efforts you make to get donations or to fund raise are appreciated.
This year, Denver is currently ranked 5th in terms of number of participants out of 90 walks…but barely making the top 20 in money earned. I’m pissed about that. We have so many teams, why isn’t the money matching that? Can you believe this keeps me up at night? I literally make NO money doing this. That’s how much I believe in CASANA. Can you believe I’m not the only walk coordinator who feels this way? I know the other walk coordinators via a facebook group. All day long people post things they are doing to help CASANA, or what places they are calling and emailing trying to get donations to make the walk the best it can be. Mind you, these are ALL volunteers working for FREE because that is how much they appreciate and believe in CASANA. We are all people willing to work for free, lose sleep, and possibly go on anxiety medication (lol) because we want every cent possible to go back to CASANA.
Last year I posted why people walk. This year I wanted you to know why I am a walk coordinator. It’s not for money or recognition, let me assure you. It’s because I believe in the organization I am representing. It’s because I love what they stand for, and I love what our children will take away from the walk that day.
It’s because EVERY CHILD DESERVES A VOICE. I would appreciate any donations to the walk. 85% of every dollar goes directly back to helping kids when you support the non-profit CASANA. They are amazing and a worthy cause. I can’t say enough. If you are so moved, the link is included below.