Vibha Milwaukee Action Center marked its annual Dream Mile 10K/5K Run and 5K Walk event on Sunday, Aug 18th with 350+ registrants – largest turnout in four years. Sweet victory was felt when people from different walks of life converged at the Veteran’s Park on this effervescent, bright morning in support of Vibha’s mission. The event attracted participants and volunteers not only from the Milwaukee metro area but from counties across Southeast Wisconsin & Illinois. Thanks to our dedicated network of Vibha volunteers, sponsors and donors who were instrumental in helping raise $14,000 this year which will help support child development initiatives of two worthy non-profit organizations – Door Step School and Our Next Generation Milwaukee.
Behind the Scenes:
Planning for Dream Mile commenced ten weeks prior to the event date. The Vibha Milwaukee Action Center leadership team leveraged email and social media channels such as Meetup.com and Facebook.com to recruit new volunteers for event planning and event day volunteering. This year’s event planning team comprised of twelve individuals – first timers and veterans included. The team met twice a week over phone and face-to-face. The meetings were conducted with utmost professional flair – time boxed, outlined meeting agenda and fair division of tasks. Every nuance of the event was discussed in detail ranging from flyers, sponsorship packets, venue reservation, and race packets to event promotion techniques. List of event tasks with assigned volunteer details was documented and shared using a Google doc spreadsheet. Having a diverse mix of volunteers greatly enhanced the outcome of the planning sessions as there was constant cross-pollination of fresh ideas.
August is a popular month for charity run/walk events in Wisconsin given the higher predictability for favorable weather conditions. Running in the USA cited an average of sixty races occurring within a fifty mile radius of Milwaukee during the month of August. Our volunteer team was unnerved by this challenge instead came up with a well defined strategic approach to garner maximum participation from the community.
Professionally timed race is a staple for most run/walk events. The team had to think outside the box to help create a unique selling proposition for Dream Mile. Reflecting on lessons learned from previously organized Vibha events, it was found that response rate is higher when there is festival fervor associated with an event. Tapping the diverse skill set of our volunteer network, this year’s Dream Mile featured an eclectic mix of complimentary race day events such as a Bollywood dance-a-thon with DJ music, face painting and henna tattoos. Free race day pictures and kids race were also offered. Scott Stoll, famously known as the “Man who cycled the world” was roped in to be the guest of honor and to award medals to the winners.
Help Others to Help Yourself:
Vibha volunteers offered help at other local community run/walk events such as the Chardhi Kala 6K, Badgerland Striders Cudahy Classic Race and Brainstorm 5K Run for the Epilepsy Foundation. Vibha Milwaukee Youth volunteers were present at the Anand Mela event organized by the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin to promote the Vibha Youth mission and distributing Dream Mile flyers.
Innovative Event Promotional Techniques:
Raising awareness about Dream Mile and the underlying Vibha mission was critical to achieving our fundraising goal. The team leveraged avenues such as FM radio advertisement, flyer distributions and Facebook pages to draw the community’s attention. Greater emphasis was laid on content driven social media marketing as this was the most prudent approach to reach a large audience. Three volunteers were assigned Page Admin roles with the goal of creating original content on the Dream Mile page and the Vibha Milwaukee Action Center page. The team leveraged Facebook Insights feature to monitor the engagement statistics on a weekly basis. Two weeks prior to the event, the team felt the need to gain more momentum for registrations. One of the successful content driven campaigning efforts was the Dream Mile contest, where if people like our Vibha pages and share our pledge drive page on their Facebook, one lucky winner could win free entry to the race. Info graphics reflecting the milestones achieved by the Vibha volunteer network, running tips and motivations quotes were some of the content that helped accelerate online interest.
Day of Action:
The whole affair was synchronized. Beginning with the crew of Vibha volunteers who arrived at 3 am to set up the registration booths, start & finish lines, water stations, banners and food stalls. Race day packets were ready to go on the day of the event, thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers who helped out two nights prior with preparing the packets containing a race bib, Vibha tee and coupons. Route maps were posted at the Start line. The aid stations were equipped with water and Gatorade at every mile and half. Bagels, bananas and oranges donated by Roundy’s Supermarkets were provided at the food stall. One of the volunteers even brought in home cooked breakfast meals and tea for the rest of the team.
The crowd started coming in at 7 AM. It took less than 50 minutes from the onsite registration open time to getting completely sold out. It was a beautiful sunny day with a High of 79 and low of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Participants eagerly gathered by the start line. Two volunteers served as emcees this year to keep the audience informed of the agenda. In order to ensure smooth transitions, the 10K Run started at 8AM followed by the 5K Run at 8:15 and 5K Walk at 8:25. It was a sight to remember with people cheering for their friends and family members of all ages, memories getting captured in photos and volunteers handing out waters to the determined runners/walkers.
Post race events garnered positive feedback from the attendees especially the 30-minute Bollywood Dance-a-Thon session led by one of the volunteers. People were in celebratory mode dancing to the tunes of old and new Hindi music. Children reveled in covering their faces & bodies with vibrant hues and artistic designs. At around 10 AM, the prize distribution ceremony began, with medals awarded to the runners within the different age group categories. The fastest runner this year accomplished a 10K distance in half hour – an amazing feat indeed!
Dream Mile serves as a platform for uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work towards a common goal and to make a difference in the community they live in. It is commendable that Vibha Milwaukee Action Center delivered yet another successful Dream Mile event for the fifth time by combining a very strong message with the limitless potential of our volunteer network. As a first time volunteer and a participant, it was a joyous experience to be part of an organization that is built on trust, accountability and sheer passion for social good.
Vote of Thanks:
Roundy’s Supermarkets – Bagels, Bananas