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Walkathons Feature Giveaways And Guides
They’re no doubt some of the year’s most unique walkathons – if for no other reason than many of the walkers have four legs. That’s right, they’re furry, friendly and photogenic – the hundreds of hounds that take part in the annual Southeastern Guide Dogs walkathons in Florida. “It’s wonderful to see people bringing their dogs to these events,” says Andy Kramer, the development director for the organization. “You can’t help but see families with their dogs and not smile.”
At each of the nine events held during the summer, the nonprofit’s trainers are invited to bring along their puppies and current trainee dogs. The puppies themselves are a special cross breed of Golden Retrievers and Labradors, which Kramer has nicknamed Goldadorables. “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.
The walkathons are meant to be fun-filled events for entire families. Besides the actual walks, each gathering includes balloons, bounce houses, mascots, food trucks and water stations. There’s also plenty of music, dancing, costumes and giveaways – for adults and animals alike. In fact, colorful promotional items play a major part in the walkathons, starting with fundraising awards. “If someone raises $100 for an event, they get a monogrammed T-shirt,” Kramer says, “while $250 gets you a branded tumbler. 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.”
After 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 in 2016. “We’ve been able to grow new events in markets where we are not as well-known via grassroots fundraising campaigns that net us more friends and sponsors, and help us provide more dogs to the visually impaired,” Kramer says. “Recently, Publix came and Subaru came on board which shows that success breeds success.”
Also on tap for next season: Participants will be invited to design the logoed T-shirts that will be used as event giveaways. The goal, of course, is to boost fundraising and engagement, as the walkathons serve as the main source of cash for the Southeastern Guide Dogs organization. “We work really hard to build excitement for these events each year, and the promotional products we incorporate really help do that,” Kramer says.