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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration


Last Updated: 6/22/2012

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)

 

X. Walk Day

Planning the Day of the Walk

Drawing a Map

  • Meet with the person in charge of the park where the walk is being held before drawing the map or have him/her review the map after it is drawn.
  • On the map, mark the following locations-
    • The start/end area.
    • Parking areas.
    • How the walkers will flow from the parking area to the staging area.
    • The walker check-in table.
    • The stage or sound system.
    • The walker T-shirt table.
    • The food and refreshment tables.
    • The portable toilets or restrooms.
    • Anything else that you plan to have at the walk.

Starting the Walk

  • Plan to have all of your walkers start together instead of starting as they check in. A single mass start increases the excitement and feeling of togetherness and makes the walk appear more organized and visually impressive.
  • You may want to start the event with a short (5- to 15-minute) program of speakers that might include political leaders, the walk chair, and one or two key local figures important to the walk and the sponsoring organization's mission.
  • Provide any special instructions about the walk route, if needed.
  • The speakers usually thank the walkers and the event sponsors, and generally try to get everyone excited about the day.
  • A brief (3- to 5-minutes) warm-up program before the start of the walk led by an exercise instructor is common. The warm-up will get people loose, excited, and gathered around the walk start area, listening to the speakers over the sound system.
  • Often, a ribbon-cutting formally starts the walk. Any number of different people can do this. For example, the ribbon can be cut by the general walk chair and honorary chair, a celebrity chair, a high-ranking elected official, or a person or family who is special and important to the sponsoring organization. We recommend that you use the person who is most appropriate for your walk. The cutting of the ribbon also makes a good photo opportunity and signals the formal start of the walk. The walkers often pass under a large balloon arch after the ribbon cutting.
  • Lead the walkers in a 10.9.8. countdown to the start of the walk (and the ribbon cutting) to officially start the walk. A staff person or enthusiastic volunteer can get everyone going in the countdown.
  • Noise always adds to the excitement of the start of the walk. Marching school bands, bagpipers, air horns, and starter's pistols are all things that way be used to help create excitement about the start of the walk.
  • Music (especially walk-related songs) can be played by the DJ over the sound system during the period directly leading up to the start of the walk (for example, the theme to Rocky).

Walk Checklist

  • Portable Toilets:Order portable toilets for the start/end area, if they are needed. Be sure to place them in an area that is off to the side of the main area so they aren't too prominent. The park manager may have specific recommendations about the number of portable toilets needed for an event based on the number of people attending. If not, we recommend that you have at least 1 handicapped and 1 non-handicapped portable toilet for every 500 walkers expected.
  • Entertainment: Confirm and re-confirm (especially with your DJ or radio station contacts) the arrival time with any entertainers that you plan to have for the walk. A warning: Entertainers, especially those donating their services, have a tendency to be a tad undependable. Good walk day entertainers include DJ's, clowns, face painters, magicians, musicians, balloon artists, etc.
  • Handling Dignitaries/Celebrities: If you have any dignitaries/celebrities (elected officials, TV personalities) scheduled to attend, be prepared for them and let them know what it is you expect them to do or say. It is usually best to send these individuals a letter a week or two before the walk that reviews when they should arrive at the site, where they should go, who they should ask for, and what exactly you want them to do.
  • Volunteers are needed for a number of tasks-
    • To direct people to the parking area (if needed).
    • To pick up and deliver the tables, chairs, food, and refreshments, ice, and anything else to the walk site the morning of the walk.
    • To help set up the start/end area. We recommend that you have the start/end area set up at least 90 minutes before the start of the walk, or 30 minutes before walker check-in. Most sites should plan on allocating 90 minutes to 2.5 hours to set up the walk site depending on the size of the walk. This means that if check-in for your walk starts at 9 a.m. and you want your start/end ready at 8:30, volunteers should start to set up the site by 6 or 7.
    • To mark the walk route with directional signs so the walkers can follow it easily (for some walks, this may not even be necessary, for others it may be a must).
    • To set up and replenish the food and refreshment area. The area should be set up as a self-service area so that once the drinks and snacks are out, one or two people can keep everything replenished during the morning/day.
    • To set up a mid-point point refreshment area with light refreshments, if you are having one.
    • To run the walker check-in tables. We recommend that you have 3 to 4 volunteers for every 100 sponsored walkers that you anticipate at your walk. If you expect 500 walkers, plan to have about 20-25 volunteers at the check-in table.
    • To give out the walk T-Shirts. You will need 1 or 2 volunteers to give out T-shirts. You should have a separate table/area where you give out your event T-shirts rather than giving them out at the check-in table. This will expedite both the walker check-in and the shirt distribution process.
  • Signs: The number and quality of the signs for the day of the walk will vary greatly from walk to walk. Some walks will have simple handmade signs and others will have professionally made signs and banners. Signs may be made for:
    • Walk signs for the park entrance. Balloons may be tied to these signs to help draw attention to them.
    • Walker check-in.
    • Walk route directions.
    • Kilometer sponsors.
    • Sponsoring organization banners.
    • Walk sponsor banners.
    • Walk sponsor thank you.
    • Refreshments area.
    • T-shirt table.
  • Balloons: Balloon arches for the start are always a great touch but can be expensive. Most balloon arches are 30 to 40 feet long. If you can get one donated or at what you think is a good price considering your budget, we recommend that you get one. They add color to the walk and make it clear to the walkers where the walk starts and ends. If you don't have money in your budget for the arch, and cannot get one donated or paid for by a supporter, don't worry about it.
    • Balloons are always a great touch to any walk. They add color to the walk, and children love to carry them. If you plan to have balloons, you'll need volunteers to start blowing them up at least two hours before the start of the walk. Remember that you will need helium to fill balloons onsite.
    • If you plan to have balloons, make sure that having helium-filled balloons is allowed by the park. Many do not allow them for environmental reasons.
  • Sound System: Sound, especially music, creates a fun, festive atmosphere at any walk. Whether you have a volunteer handling your sound system the day of the event or a radio station or paid DJ handling it, the sound system should be set up with music playing by the start of walker registration (1 hour before the start of the walk). It usually takes a DJ about an hour to set up sound equipment so plan on having the DJ or sound volunteer at the site at least 2 hours before the start of the walk. Review electrical needs with your DJ in advance. If they need access to electricity, or electric extension cords, you need to know before the morning of the walk.
  • Ice: If you expect the day to be warm, please make an extra special effort to have lots of ice available to keep drinks and water as cold as possible. Your walkers will greatly appreciate this!
  • End Point Welcome Squad: The welcome squad is a group of volunteers responsible for cheering, thanking, and congratulating the walkers as they finish the walk. This is always a great touch to any walk. High school or grade school cheerleading squads add color, fun, and excitement to the end of a walk, but having walk committee members cheer walkers and shake their hands also works well (and both is best!). Bottom line: do whatever you can to show walkers they are appreciated at the end of the walk.
  • Kilometer Sponsor signs: If you have kilometer sponsors, place these signs along the route before the start of the walk.
  • Tents/Canopies: You may want to have a canopy for your local check-in area (and possibly your food area). This is entirely a local decision. Remember, the walk is a rain or shine event and if you do not have access to shelter, a canopy can come in handy if the weather turns bad.
  • It is not necessary, but having coffee and refreshments for volunteers working on setting up the site is a nice gesture.
  • First-Aid: Local or municipal ambulance squads will often volunteer their services for a walkathon if asked (especially if asked by the right person, such as an elected official). School nurses and podiatrists also are good options when trying to get first-aid coverage for your walks. Most walks generate very little in the way of medical emergencies (usually a blister or two, a bee sting, and occasionally a sprained ankle or knee), but it is good to be prepared for them. If you don't have an ambulance squad covering your walk, you should definitely have the phone number of the nearest hospital or emergency squad, just in case you need it.
  • Agenda: Prepare an agenda for the day. We recommend that everyone develop a WRITTEN AGENDA for the day of the walk and share it with all of your key volunteers in advance of the walk. This will greatly increase the chances of the day running smoothly.
  • Communication: Key volunteers should be able to reach each other quickly throughout the day. This may mean providing your volunteers with walkie-talkie equipment or at least making sure that all of your volunteers have a master list of each other's cell phone numbers.
  • Clean up: Review the clean up duties with the park official. It is always a good policy to go into the day planning on leaving the start/end area and the walk route cleaner than it was when you first arrived. This will greatly increase the chances of getting the park or site again next year. Have plenty of trash bags and volunteers ready at the end of the day.
  • Event Photographers: The main job of event photographers is to get team pictures and to capture the day on film. Two photographers are usually better than one, three better than two, etc. The photographers can be volunteers, and you can reimburse them for the film if necessary. Digital pictures also are great and easy to send to others.
  • Videotaping your walks: If your budgets permit, plan on videotaping your walks.
  • Overall Walk Day Manager: This person should be the staff member or volunteer who knows the most about the planning for the day of the walk. We recommend that the overall walk day manager stay in one location, usually the walker check-in area, so that all other volunteers will know where to find him/her at any time during the walk. This manager should also be reachable by phone or walkie-talkie if other key volunteers who are not in the main start/end area need to reach him/her for any reason. The security and first-aid people should also know who the overall walk day manager is and how he/she can be reached at any time during the walk.

Registration Information

Individual Walkers

  • Is the walk day envelope form filled out completely and printed clearly?
  • If they do not have the form, send them to the special assistance table to get one and to fill it out.
  • Have they included the name of their team captain/team name on the form?
  • Have they signed the waiver statement at the bottom of the page?

Team Captains

  • Do they have their large team captain envelope filled out completely for their team? If not, send them to the special assistance table to get a large team captain envelope to fill out.
  • Have they clearly filled out their name, team name, address, and phone number on the outside of the large team captain envelope?

Help

  • Direct people to restrooms, refreshments, pavilions, T-shirts, face painters, etc.

T-shirt distribution table

  • Make sure each person requesting a T-shirt has a ticket.
  • Give out one T-shirt for each ticket.
  • Place tickets in the collection box provided.

Volunteer Needs

This section contains recommendations on the number of volunteers needed for different walk day tasks. It is important to realize that you already have many of these volunteers available to you through your committee members, teams-especially business- and consumer organization-based teams-and in some cases, your sponsors. For example, your committee members can help to set up the walk area and staff the check-in, special assistance, refreshment, and T-shirt tables before they take part in the walk. In many cases they can also get other members of their team to help them with these tasks. Business-based teams usually have access people who may not be walking but are willing to volunteer. Some of the individuals involved in your walk may belong to a service organization that can provide volunteers for your walk day.

The key is to get the word out to your volunteers and supporters about your volunteer needs. The best way to do that is to mail all your committee members and team captains about your walk day volunteer needs. The walkathon office can help to do this because they have your team captain interest forms and the lists of people who asked to be sent information about your walk. These people, along with businesses, consumer groups, and sponsors that you may have a special relationship with, should provide the bulk of your volunteers on walk day.

Check if Planned For

Volunteer Task/Activity

_______

Set Up of Start/End Area and Walk Route.
Work closely with your contact person at the park where the walk is being held when planning the set-up of your walk. He/She can help you work through any questions or issues you may have about setting up a walk site. Specifically, he/she knows what can or can't be done at the park and what others have done. We recommend that 5-15 volunteers arrive at the site 3 or more hours prior to scheduled start of the walk to set up the area. The walk area should be completely set up at least 90 minutes prior to the start of the walk. The first walkers-the "early birds"-usually arrive 15-30minutes before the scheduled walker check-in time, or about 75-90 minutes before the start of the walk.

_______

Check-In Tables.
Recommend ratio of 3 volunteers for every 100 anticipated walkers. This is the most important area of the event on walk day. Providing the walkers with a smooth check-in experience is crucial to the success of the walk.

_______

Check-In Special Assistance (Problem) Table.
Recommend 1 volunteer for every 250-500 anticipated walkers. Key task is to help walkers complete a walk day check-in form for every member of their team. Area should be well-stocked with extra walk day check-in forms and pens, and there should be enough table space for walkers to complete the forms.

_______

T-shirt Table.
Recommend 2 volunteers per 750 anticipated walkers. Keep the T-shirt distribution separate from the check-in table so that it doesn't slow down the walker check-in process. Generally, walkers are given a raffle ticket by the check-in table volunteers that they can use at the T-shirt table to get their T-shirt.

_______

Refreshment Area.
Recommend 2 volunteers per 500 walkers. The main tasks these volunteers will have are to set up the area and put out the refreshments. Ideally, the refreshment area should be "self-serve," and volunteers just keep the stock replenished as needed.

_______

Information Tables Area.
This area is optional. If your walk is selling or giving "booth space" to groups or sponsors who will then be giving out literature or material, be aware that a volunteer should be charged with helping to set up and oversee this area.

_______

Route Monitors.
Again, this area is optional. Some walks may need to place volunteers at key places along the route to make sure that walkers make correct turns and follow the route throughout the walk. Good signage-directional arrows prominently placed at turns and intersections along route-is another way of handling this.

_______

Rest stop.
Again, optional. Most of the walks are 3 miles and walkers generally can cover this distance without a needing a rest stop/refreshment area along the way. However, you may want to have one set up at the halfway point of the walk, which is fine. Just make sure that you have it set-up, stocked, and staffed by the start of the walk. It will only take the fastest walkers about 20-25 minutes to reach this point so you'll need to be ready for them. Some rest stops are self-serve and others may have one to four volunteers at them. Again, this will vary from walk to walk, depending on the size of both the walk and the rest stop area.

_______

Stage/Program Manager.
Someone should be in charge of coordinating pre-walk program of speakers and activities. This person should work with the MC-or will serve as the MC-and make sure announcements are made as needed about the walk, the program starts on time, speakers are gathered up and ready to speak, the DJ or radio station has what they need, the sound system works, extension cords are available if needed, and more.

_______

Start/End Point Manager.
This person's primary responsibilities include making sure things are flowing properly at all of the tables and everything is on target for the walk to start on time and as planned. This means that the pre-walk program is on schedule and that the mass start of the walk is implemented as planned.

_______

Event Photographer.
Main tasks include taking general walk day pictures of volunteers, walkers, and dignitaries in action and taking group pictures of the teams. Many walkathons set up a team picture area by the stage or microphone and call teams up one by one to have a team picture taken in front of a sponsoring organization's banner. The teams, especially the ones in team T-shirts, love having their picture taken as a group.

_______

Videographer.
Because of cost, it is recommended that anyone professionally videotaping the walk donate their services.

_______

Overall Event Manager.
Generally this is the walk coordinator or key volunteer who will work closely with the walk chairperson. The overall event manager is responsible for seeing that all aspects of walk run smoothly-or as smoothly as possible!-on walk day.

General Checklist of Needs

Check if Planned For

Volunteer Task/Activity

_______

Tables and chairs for check-in area-Plan for 3-4 chairs per 4' by 8' table and, ideally, for 2 check-in volunteers per hundred anticipated walkers.

_______

Tables and chairs for special assistance area.

_______

Tables for T-shirt area
(Chairs are optional.)

_______

Tables and chairs for information area, if having information tables

_______

Tables and chairs for start/end point refreshment area

_______

Table for halfway point rest stop area

_______

Event stage (optional)

_______

Sound system (a must!)

_______

DJ or radio station to play music before, during, and after walk-Generally, you can use the DJ's sound system to make announcements and for the pre-walk program. The DJ or radio station should arrive and be playing music 90 minutes before the start of the walk. It is good if the music is playing as the walkers arrive. This creates a very festive atmosphere for the walk right from the start.

_______

MC for pre- and post-walk announcements and programs.

_______

Exercise instructor or exercise group to lead walkers in brief (5-minute at most) pre-walk warm-up (optional, but nice touch. Most walks have this as part of the pre-walk program).

_______

Electricity and extension cords, if needed, for sound system.

_______

Photographer (see above).

_______

Pick-up and delivery of refreshments.

_______

Pick-up and delivery of tables and chairs (see above).

_______

Moon-bounce for kids (optional, but a nice touch and worth the cost if you have to pay for it).

_______

Entertainment for kids (clowns, face painters, magicians, balloons, etc.)-This is a nice touch and makes the event a family friendly one. Generally, the more entertainment that you have during the walk, especially the pre-walk period, the better.

_______

Refreshments-Recommend that food and drink donations be in single-serving packs. General rule is two drinks and one snack per anticipated walker. More is always better, however. Recommend that you do not provide full meals for walkers unless they are donated. Strongly advise against cooking and serving hot dogs.

_______

Portable toilets-Recommend 2 per 500-750 walkers. Be sure that at least one-and maybe both, if you order two-is handicap accessible. If park officials require more, do what they require.

_______

Coffee-Always great to have, especially for volunteers working on setting up site.

_______

Celebrities/dignitaries-Confirm details of walk and what is expected of them in writing at least 1 week prior to the walk.

_______

Kilometer sponsor signs-Signs are usually 2' x 2' and made out of a durable, reusable material. Contact local sign companies in yellow pages of phone book. Check with two or three companies. Usually by the third call, you have a good idea of which company best understands your needs, is easiest to work with, and will give you best price.

_______

Tents/canopies (optional)-If the park you are using doesn't give you access to shelter if the weather is bad, you might want to have at least one or two tents for the check-in and refreshment areas. Cost is always a factor. This is usually a local decision.

_______

Placement of sponsors' banners (always a nice touch.)-The sponsoring organization's banner should also be prominently displayed somewhere at start/end point area.

_______

Signage-Areas that may need signs include: check-in area, special assistance area, T-shirt area, refreshment area. Signs can be professionally made or done by volunteers.

_______

Signage for park entrance and, if needed, along roads inside the park directing drivers to parking area.

_______

Route direction arrows to place along walk route-These can be done by volunteers. Quantity will vary site by site. One option is to make large direction arrows and get them copied on a colored light cardboard paper stock. This should not cost more than $20 or so. Most walks will not need more than 10 directional arrows along the route.

_______

Balloon arch (nice touch but not necessary if you can't get it donated, or at a very good price, arches can be expensive)-Balloon bunches at either end of a ribbon stretched across a starting point can create a similar effect at a fraction of the cost. You should not feel that a balloon arch for start/end point is a must if the cost is too high.

_______

Helium-filled balloons for kids (nice touch)-Kids love balloons and they add a lot of color to the entire walk. A party store can usually handle supplying balloons and the helium needed for them at a reasonable cost. Another option is to buy balloons and to get helium donated from a local hospital. Remember that if you do have balloons, you will need two volunteers the day of the walk to inflate them and give them to the kids.

_______

Clean-up crew-You should always leave a park cleaner than it was when you arrived. The volunteers who break down the site should also travel the entire route and make sure that all walk-related litter is picked up.

_______

Miscellaneous supplies-This includes things like extra walk day check-in forms for the special assistance table, staple guns, pens, large paper clips, rubber bans, staplers, notepads, extension cords, masking tape and whatever other things you may need as you prepare for the day of the walk.

_______

First-Aid-It is recommended that you contact the EMT squad that is based in the city or town that the walk is being held in. The county may also be able to provide an ambulance for the walk or at least direct you to where to get one. Area hospitals may also be able to help you with this task. The local (i.e. township) volunteer ambulance squads are usually a good bet.

_______

Pre-walk "walk through" with park officials and key volunteers-It is strongly recommended that you have a pre-walk "walk through" of the site with your primary contact at the park and a few key volunteers sometime during the week before the walk. It is far better to catch last minute problems and issues before the walk than it is to have to deal with them on walk day.

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