Derrick Babin of VON Tri-County says giving walkathon participants three route options seemed to work well when it was tried last year.
ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
It has been nearly four-and-a-half decades since the Victorian Order of Nurses first held its Yarmouth walkathon and the annual fundraiser will be held again – for the 44th time – Saturday, May 24.
Participants will get to choose from three distance options –4.5, 5.5 or eight kilometres – with the event starting and finishing at Marian Hall across from St. Ambrose Cathedral.
Registration is scheduled for 9 a.m. and the event gets underway at 10.
Although billed as a walkathon, the event is open to walkers and runners.
Indeed, the Yarmouth area has quite a few runners these days and some of them use the VON event as a chance to get in a training run while raising money for the cause, says Derrick Babin, manager of community support and volunteer services for VON Tri-County.
“We’ve been fortunate that the running community has kind of supported this event that way,” he said.
Thirty-five people or so took part in last year’s walkathon, close to the same level of participation the event has had in recent years.
“We always try to promote it as much as we can,” Babin said. “We always go back to our past supporters, those who have run or walked in the past, and encourage them to invite their family and friends to join them.”
He acknowledges that many groups are doing their own fundraisers – be it walking events or something else – and so getting more people to take part can be a challenge.
There was a time when the VON’s walkathon drew hundreds of participants. Although walking for funds has been commonplace for years, it was a different story back in the early 1970s.
When the VON introduced its walkathon, “It was kind of a novelty,” Babin said. “It was huge … The walk was much longer. A lot of people participated in this kind of novel way of raising money for the organization.”
Still, while the numbers aren’t what they used to be, the walkathon has such a long history and is so well established that it has remained a signature event for the VON, Babin says, and it helps get the word out about the programs and services the VON offers.
“It does provide visibility to our organization … beyond just the fundraising part of it,” he said.
As for this year’s walkathon, the event will be followed by refreshments and there are typically a few prizes too.
The idea is to have it “rain or shine,” Babin said, noting that thunder and lightning likely would be the only kind of weather that would keep organizers from going ahead with the event as scheduled.
“We’re not going to put people in danger,” he said.
To sign up for the walkathon, participants can contact the local VON office at 742-4512.