I have run marathons and half marathons for nine non-profit organizations collectively raising over $85,000. One of those organizations was Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD). While working with them a few years ago, I became familiar with and joined their Run for Our Sons program that raises money to support their mission to end Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed in childhood, affecting approximately 1 in every 3,500 live male births (about 20,000 new cases each year worldwide). Because the Duchenne gene is found on the X-chromosome, it primarily affects boys; however, it occurs across all races and cultures.
I sat down recently with Nicole Herring, PPMD’s Endurance Program Manager, to catch up with Run for Our Sons. It’s now in it’s 12th year! Like other “cause-running” programs, it began when a couple of parents with affected children, who happened to be runners, organized a group to run the Disney World Marathon. 86 people ran and raised over $186,000. The program has since grown to about 600 participants,15 events, and raises just shy of $1 million annually. This covers about 15% of the organization’s annual operating budget.
Run for Our Sons participants receive guaranteed entry, paid entry fee, technical team shirt, a fundraising web page, fundraising support and access to staff. There are also monthly training tips offered through a parent blog and a team pasta dinner the night before the event for the participant and a guest.
Nicole said that 95% of their runners have a connection to Duchenne – family members and friends. “Diagnosis brings ‘hopelessness’ and this is a way to do something – sign up and run – it becomes a way to feel good and do something positive,” explained Nicole. There is a very moving video on their web site where participants offer reasons for “Why I run.”
Houston Marathon Weekend (5k, Half, Marathon), January 2013
Run for Our Sons is currently recruiting for The Shamrock Shuffle 5K in Rockford, IL (Mar. 20), The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K in Chicago (Apr. 3), and the Inaugural Walt Disney World Star Wars Races (5K, 10K, Half; April 15-17). Registration for the Star Wars races is now only available through travel providers and charity partners like PPMD. Fundraising commitments vary by races. For more details, please visit the Run for Our Sons web site.
In addition to half marathons and marathons, PPMD encourages supporters all over the country to host their own fun runs, 5Ks and 10Ks to raise money for Run for Ours Sons and in doing so, awareness for PPMD. Their website, RunForOurSons.org, makes it easy for not only runners, but non-runners (which they call “spirit” runners), to get involved at whatever level they feel comfortable.
The take-away for non-profits is that this is a great way to raise funds and awareness for your organization. Programs like Run for Our Sons have relatively low overhead. That being said, they do take an investment and require staff time. While Nicole coordinates all the details for each race, a number of additional staff and volunteers provide support leading up to each event and help organize the groups on race day.
Run for Our Sons is a real grass-roots effort with a lot of heart. The families I met in the short time I was involved touched my soul. This is a small organization achieving a magnitude of success toward finding a cure for Duchenne. To my running friends: if you are looking for a way into the Disney Star Wars Races, please consider fundraising for Run for Our Sons. The Half Marathon requires only a $1200 fundraising commitment and you will find yourself part of a very special team.