Look Who’s Walking Now….Houston!
By Megan McCulloch
After a long evening at Houston Medical Center visiting my mom who was recovering from another relapse of CIDP, I felt helpless. When I got home, I checked my mail to find a postcard from the GBS|CIDP Foundation regarding a Walk & Roll in Dallas, Texas coming up in May 2015. I was excited and encouraged to learn about the Foundation’s community events to raise awareness and research funding. I was eager to help patients affected by GBS, CIDP and variants receive the cure they desperately need. I excitedly checked the Walk & Roll website to see when a Houston Walk & Roll was scheduled, but I was surprised and disappointed not to see Houston listed as a city hosting a walk. I called the Foundation the next morning to find out why and was told that there was no walk because no one had volunteered to plan one in my city. This was it – it was my opportunity to do something to help my mom and those like her who are afflicted. I simply said, “I’ll do it!”
*Spoiler Alert – We beat our goal!*
I first had to get a planning committee formed. This started with the Foundation connecting me with someone else in my area who was also interested in having a Houston Walk & Roll. From there, the two of us asked our friends and family to also be part of this ambitious committee. We started by picking a place and date, with our biggest consideration being attendance. We wanted to be sure we picked the best day and an inviting venue to attract the walkers we needed to reach our goal of raising $15,000. The Foundation supplied me with a compilation of tools, including a step by step guide on how to plan and marketing materials that would be mailed out to the Houston area. I also created a Facebook event page to post updates of the event and the direct link to register to participate in the Walk & Roll. This was a great place to reach those who were not already part of the Foundation. We had people inviting so many friends from all over Texas, and even the surrounding states to the Houston event. One thing we did on our page leading up the event was a week-long trivia game (with prizes!) asking various questions related to the Foundation and facts about GBS, CIDP, and variants. This enabled us to help raise awareness to those that might not have the background on why this walk was so important to our community.
It was essential to the committee that we plan not only a successful event, but also a memorable one that would appeal to all ages. The committee decided that creating a fun theme for the Walk & Roll would allow our walkers to have fun while at the event. We decided to create a super hero theme to honor the strength of the GBS and CIDP patients. We asked the walkers to come dressed in their best super hero gear – and boy, they did not disappoint – everyone came dressed!
One of the tools the Foundation gave me was a sponsorship packet with all the details a company needed to make their decision to sponsoring our event. This made the conversations with companies effortless and allowed us to get two sponsors in addition to the national sponsors, totaling $3,000 towards our goal. We also had many companies want to give in-kind donations, such as gift certificates to their restaurant and hotel. We did not want to turn these donations down, so we opted to host an onsite raffle during the walk with these items to help raise additional funds. Once word got out we were hosting a raffle, additional donated items came flooding in, including jewelry, an autographed baseball, Super Hero Build-A-Bears, and gift baskets. One of most memorable donated items was a photo booth that matched our theme where the walkers could capture their memories that day all dressed up (there was rarely a time when people were not using the booth).
Waking up the day of the event with a looming storm from Hurricane Patricia on its way, everyone on the committee wondered just how the day would go. To our surprise, it was beyond our expectations! We started the day at just under 100 registrations and fundraising at $13,500 – so close to our goal! We kept a fundraising thermometer posted that we updated throughout the walk in hopes of reaching our goal of $15,000. We had so many additional people come and register on site (134 total registrations!), I had to postpone my welcome speech to allow everyone to check in (and buy raffle tickets) before we kicked off the event. After waiting as long as I could, and $40 short of our goal, I welcomed everyone to the event. I ran through how the event would go, giving the option to stay under cover since it was raining and announcing where we stood on fundraising. Once it was announced we were $40 short, we immediately had two people with $20 bills walk up and make the donation we needed. I broke down in tears at how inspiring the Houston community was in coming together, and how fulfilling it was to see our goal met in front of those that need it most. And if that was not moving enough, everyone still walked in the rain to show their support! The committee, volunteers, and I were so taken back by the fellowship that day. We never realized just how meaningful hosting the first Houston Walk & Roll would be.
“The 2015 Walk & Roll was not only well organized, it was extremely family friendly and inspirational. I am so glad I was able to attend and support this organization. The park location was also a big plus to the event.” – Kathy, Victoria, TX
“The Walk & Roll was overwhelming and inspiring to be surrounded by so many people in my same situation; it can feel so lonely at times and to see and be a part of the crowd was such a wonderful feeling. I am so thankful for these events being put together. It is one thing to have a digital community, but I will never forget the feeling of walking up to the pavilion and seeing so many people gathered together for our cause.” – Lisa, Austin, TX
“The support from the Foundation and the experience of the Walk is one that will stay with me forever on this journey of life. Being sick is not easy, but having a community who bands together makes the battle worth fighting. Despite the weather trying to bring us down, it was an overall success. My family and friends enjoyed it so much and look forward to next year!” – Leanna, Sugar Land, TX
Even after the event was over, people continued to donate money to the Houston Walk & Roll until we reached a phenomenal final total of $19,841. All our sponsors have expressed their anticipation of and commitment to the 2016 Houston Walk & Roll. Being part of this incredible event was a fantastic experience. I cannot express enough how grateful I am to have received that postcard when I did. I may not be able to cure GBS or CIDP, but I am delighted that I found a way to support a cause that could one day find cure for those afflicted.
Interested in attending Houston’s 2016 Walk? Find out more here!