Sunday, May 18, 2008

Relay 2008: Recap and Reflections

The 2008 Greensboro Relay For Life was this past Friday, and I'm finally feeling coherent enough this Sunday morning -- Saturday, like after every Relay I've taken part in, was given to sleep, wonderful sleep -- to put my thoughts on the event together.

  • Fundraising:

    • It was harder for our team to fund raise this year. We didn't get a corporate sponsorship that we had gotten for the past three years, and that cut our bottom line by about 50%.

    • Over the past two years, Lisa and I have spent a boatload of our personal money on projects that we thought would really be big moneymakers for us. Last year we put together a cook book, which sold well at first. We still have just under half of the copies we had printed left. This year, we bought tickets to the Wachovia Championship PGA tournament to raffle off. We didn't recoup our costs here, either. I think the biggest problem is we just don't have a good grasp on how to publicize what we're doing.

    • We did find that a lot of local businesses are willing to help out with donations of their goods and services. The key is asking, which in the past has never been something either of us has been eager to do. This changes, now.

    • Thank you to the following Greensboro businesses for their generosity to Team Investing In A Cure: Elizabeth's Pizza at Quaker Village, Gander Mountain, Great Harvest Bread Company, Merchant's Tires, P.F. Chang, Phoenix Asian Cuisine, Red Robin, and Remington Grill.

  • Setting up our campsite:

    • It was a very long half-hour waiting to get the van and car unloaded at the gate to the Page High athletic complex. I don't think our logistics chair ended up with quite as much help as he was expecting.

    • Once, just once, Lord, we'd be awfully grateful if the weather would be really cooperative. Still and all, rain and wind are just a couple of things to be endured; we're here to fight cancer, and there are a lot of symbolic reasons behind Relay being an outdoor overnight event. We had some inconvenience; the people we're serving through Relay are in danger of their lives.

    • Lisa and I prefer Western Guilford High School as the event site to Page High School. We're in the minority, which is why we were back at Page after two years at Western Guilford. It is possible we're part of a silent majority, because the site switch happened in response to a post-Relay survey last year. Any way, put this down as a minor quibble.

    • Pop-up gazebos are much easier to put up than tents, but it's harder to stay out of the mid-May wind under them. At least it wasn't cold enough this year for us to see our breath.

    • It was good to be set up close to the bathrooms.

    • It's always a bit lonely and a touch frustrating that, no matter how many people we have signed up on our team, Lisa and I are the only two setting up our campsite, staying all night, and cleaning up the next morning.

    • We did have several team members completely new to Relay this year, and at least one family showed signs that they might become invested in it like we have. If so, future Relays will be even more rewarding.

  • The Event Itself:

    • After onsite registration began at 5:00, we had a brisk couple of hours getting cash donations for bread, cook books, and our restaurant gift card raffle.

    • Emily Byrd did a very credible job as our M.C. for the Opening Ceremony.

    • The bird feeder my dad donated for the silent auction did well.

    • Page High has a fairly new rubberized track, so we couldn't use candles in the luminaries. We used a couple of glow sticks in each bag, instead. The light from the luminaries was much more diffuse than that from candles, almost ethereal. Maybe too much so. I think next year I'll recommend, in my role as part of the Event Committee, that we use three glow sticks per luminary rather than two.

    • For the second straight year, I brought in about $25 in donations by taking part in the Dude Looks Like A Lady contest. I think I looked better this year. I'll have to post pictures for comparison.

    • I don't often get up the nerve to sing in public, and after deciding on a lark to take part in Relay Idol this year, it may be quite a while before I do again. I usually like the sound of my singing voice, but not this time. I sounded, to myself, a bit off tune, a bit sharp on many notes. I also forgot too many of the lyrics to The River, one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs. On the other hand, no one else had the crowd raising their hands and waving in time to their song.

    • The Coleman Camp Drip Coffeemaker that Gander Mountain donated works very nicely. It fits over a burner on a propane stove and then works just like your kitchen drip coffeemaker. Only a lot slower. Especially in a breeze. But it does make fine tasting coffee, and we had a nice overnight fund raiser, at a donation of $1 per cup. The chilly temperature was a plus for this.

    • We actually had a Closing Ceremony this year. I like that. Our event chairwoman announced that we have so far raised almost $250,000 for 2008. We have a few more weeks before the formal close of Relay 2008, so I like our chances of meeting our $300,000 goal.

  • The Future:

    • Our Event Committee -- I'm part of it, as the Online Chairperson -- knows how to put together a Relay that's going to make a certain amount of money. The fund raising goal has been right around $300,000 every year Lisa and I have been part of the Greensboro Relay, and the amount raised has been within 10%, plus or minus, of that goal each year.

    • It's certainly not a terrible thing for a charity like the American Cancer Society to know that it has a reliable and steady source of income, as our Relay has been.

    • I can't escape the feeling that, both as a member of the Committee and as an individual, that I'm not doing enough. My wife came to Greensboro from Harrisonburg, Virginia when we married. She was part of Relay there, and that event made more money from a rather smaller population base than the Greensboro event.

    • So, what's the difference between the Greensboro and Harrisonburg events? I've taken part in both, and from what I can tell, it comes down to the emphasis that the Committee places on detailed communication. Harrisonburg seems to do a more effective job of this.

    • I've learned that the more you ask people to help, the more they do. But, you have to keep asking. This is my key lesson from Relay 2008.

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