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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)


I. General Information

Purpose of the Guide and Benefits of Walks

Over the last 20 years, walkathons and other similar athletic events have become the number one vehicle for health-related groups to generate public awareness of and support for their causes. This guide will assist you in doing the same for the cause of mental health.

Walks are a tried and true way to mobilize interested individuals and organizations around an event that will generate greater public awareness and understanding of mental health. This understanding will in turn lead to a reduction in the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and persons living with the illnesses.

As you begin the process of planning a walkathon, you should develop a simple, one-page paper explaining who you are and why the walkathon is important to your community.

Timeline of Walk Activities

First Steps (5 to 10 Months Prior to Walk Date)

  • Hold first organizational meeting.
  • Identify and recruit general walk chair or co-chairs.
  • Select date, location, and time of walk.
  • Set up local walk headquarters or P.O. box.
  • Begin process of recruiting sponsors for walk.
  • Organize walk committee and begin holding meetings.
  • Develop and begin to implement walk awareness and volunteer recruitment campaign within your local community.
  • Try to target and recruit a top level business leader to serve as a corporate team recruitment chairperson.
  • Try to recruit local media (radio, TV, newspaper) sponsors for the walk.
  • Develop and begin using a Web site to publicize the walk and communicate regularly with confirmed and potential volunteers

Next Steps (2 to 5 Months Prior to Walk Date)

  • Finish recruitment of sponsors. Gather all sponsor names and logos needed for printed materials.
  • Continue to hold committee meetings.
  • Continue to expand committee and number of volunteers involved with the walk.
  • Continue to make local organizations aware of the plans for the walk.
  • Continue to work on walk day logistics.
  • Continue to use the Web site to publicize walk and communicate with volunteers.
  • Finalize public relations plans with walk media sponsors.
  • Plan major kickoff luncheon for walk that will be held approximately 8 weeks prior to date of event.
  • Finalize large mailing list of potential sponsors to invite to kickoff luncheon.
  • Order all walk materials (posters, team building information packets, walkathon informational materials, etc.) needed for kickoff luncheon.
  • Mail personalized letters of invitation to mailing list 5 weeks prior to kickoff luncheon.
  • Mail followup formal invitation 1 week after the letters are mailed.

Final Pre-Walk Period (2 Months until Walk Date)

  • Hold successful kickoff luncheon 8 weeks prior to date of walk.
  • Send thank you letters to everyone who attended the kickoff luncheon.
  • Send or deliver walk materials to all potential supporters who were unable to attend the kickoff luncheon.
  • Communicate regularly about the walk with all team captains and sponsors via the walkathon Web site, mailings, e-mails, and phone calls.
  • Track walker pre-registration forms by teams as they are received.
  • Continue to hold walk committee meetings as needed.
  • Finalize plans for walk day logistics.
  • Implement walk public relations plan that was developed with media sponsors.

Post-Walk Activities

  • Hold final walk committee meeting.
  • Send thank you report with results of the walk to all key supporters.

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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.