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Groups pivot to accommodate fundraisers during pandemic

'We’re anticipating and planning for a low fundraising year'

Kelly Letourneau has learned to pivot quickly, these days it’s around a red pair of high-heeled shoes.

And she’s not alone as some organizations refuse to give up on the idea of fundraising and friend raising during the pandemic.

Letourneau, development manager of the Women & Children's Shelter of Barrie, had hoped to turn the annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes fundraiser into Drive A Mile, complete with a parade and a police escort.

But soon after discussing the change, she realized it wasn’t possible. Parades, even restricting people to cars, are prohibited through the temporary emergency rules.

“So we’re going to do something virtual,” she announced Monday. “We’re encouraging people, men, specifically, to do something in red shoes.”

Details are still being developed, but the idea is that participants can pick up a pair of red shoes at a designated location and keep them for a week, during which time they’ll do an activity, like mowing the lawn, wearing the shoes for a pledge and share the resulting pictures.

The essence of the event remains the same: Having people participating around a theme to acknowledge an important issue in our community while raising money. But instead of walking together, they’ll do whatever turns their crank in red shoes..

While the pandemic has forced the cancellation of so many events, some, like the shelter, have decided to pivot, and then re-pivot, reworking their events to allow for a physical distance and implementing necessary safety measures.

Letourneau doesn’t expect to match last year’s $48,000 that was raised and has decided to instead focus on the ability to celebrate safely.

Earlier, the Rotary Club of Barrie decided that the seminal event that greets the summer at the waterfront, the Barrie Fun Run, would not be cancelled. Instead, the June run went virtual.

The initial thought was that the Fun Run, in its 33rd year, would have to be cancelled. But member Jon Ingram floated the idea of leveraging technology to create a duplicate event that could be held in a safe environment.

After some brainstorming, with Kara Hoffsuemmer at the helm as run chair, organizers came up with the idea of allowing participants to take part in the run independently and suggested a series of different routes they could take. They would then share their accomplishments online.

“It worked well,” said Ian Pavlik, who implemented the necessary technology. “We exceeded our fundraising number for the last two years. That’s phenomenal!”

The event netted $33,000.

The big difference this year was expenses. Instead of spending the usual $10,000 for the road closure permits, policing, pylons and T-shirts, the club spent $114, relying largely on volunteers to pull it all together.

“There was a lot in-kind, that’s one of the powers of Rotary,” he said. “That drives a lot of the costs down.”

Sponsors were in place before the pandemic was declared, but organizers, knowing that many businesses were being impacted, asked them to simply give what they could. In the end, more than two-thirds of the businesses committed.

Instead of charging a fixed registration fee this year, participants were asked to give what they could and many did decide to make a donation. Businesses also registered teams.

And although 1,200 people typically pre-register for the run, only 450 registered in the system, although more likely participated.

“I think there’s a lot of creativity going on out there,” concluded Pavlik. “There was no pushback. We got: ‘Thank you for trying.’”

The shelter would like to match the Fun Run’s success, but there are no expectations, slow years are expected, said Letourneau. The organization, which has seen big ebbs and flows during the pandemic including a surge in crisis calls, must annually raise $350,000 to bridge the gap of government funding.

“We’re anticipating and planning for a low fundraising year,” said Letourneau.

The goal this year is to share the spirit of the event and hope that perhaps they can raise at least some money along the way.

“Everything changes so quickly,” said Letourneau, who seems to change just as quickly as the times.

About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Buineman is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering justice issues based out of BarrieToday. The LJI is funded by the government of Canada
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