Running for Their Lives

New Mexico's "Born to Run" Generates Awareness, Enthusiasm, and Funds for the Pro-Life Cause

By Holly Smith, Advisor, NRL Field Coordinator

Conceived during a jog along the Rio Grande River, Right to Life Committee of New Mexico's "Born to Run" event has raised over $20,000 in just two years. And as "Born to Run" Committee Chair Leroy Chavez puts it, "the money raised is only half the story."

You are no doubt familiar with the plethora of charity runs and walk-a-thons out there. They raise money and awareness for every cause imaginable - - for breast cancer research, domestic violence prevention programs, the local zoo - - the list goes on and on. Chavez, a member of Right to Life Committee of New Mexico's board of directors, figured, "if 6,000 or so people would come out and run and raise money for animals, surely we could attract several hundred (or thousands of) people to help save unborn babies." Charity runs are safe bets to attract a good crowd since running is the most popular activity for physical health. Its appeal is widespread.

A pro-life charity run also gives people an opportunity to actively participate in the pro-life movement when they may not do so in traditional ways, This also taps into the enthusiasm and energy of younger people. Twenty-, thirty-, and forty-somethings participate in charity runs in large numbers. These are exactly the age groups we need to bring into more active involvement in the pro-life movement.

As Chavez corroborated, "The intangible benefits of this event cannot be overstated."

"The greater impact [of the 'Born to Run'] was the exposure that the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, and the Right to Life cause in general, received from this event," he explained. "There are undoubtedly people who, even if they did not participate, saw our posters and registration forms and became aware of our organization's existence. [There are also] people who became new members."

Chavez started by gathering a committee of 10 "diehard" volunteers who worked diligently for over a year to plan a professional 5k run/walk and 1 mile run/walk event. They made the decision to hire a race promoter from a local sporting goods store to design the race course and timing.

In addition to having someone with expertise available, hiring a race director gives the event instant credibility. Also, a professional can offer valuable advice when it comes to obtaining city permits and other details which might otherwise be overlooked. Chavez cautions, "Don't try to do this yourself."

There were lots of nuts and bolts activities that needed to be worked through to make the event the success it's become. The "Born to Run" Committee, for example, found a graphic designer to produce the logo, sponsor forms, registration forms, and brochures. The pro-lifers also went looking for help.

Races raise money not only by collecting entrance fees and pledges to support runners, but also by attracting corporate sponsors for donations, prizes, and publicity. But how do you solicit sponsors? The committee enclosed sponsor forms in its newsletter and contacted some small businesses they thought that might be interested in participating.

Businesses that contributed more than $500 had their logos printed on the registration form, posters, and t-shirts. They were also encouraged to display a banner at the race itself and given several complimentary race entries.

After the sponsors were lined up, the committee printed 10,000 registration forms to distribute in sporting goods stores, gyms, Christian bookstores, and in its newsletter. TV, radio, and newspaper ads were also effective in promoting the race. A local event like this draws free media attention. Many Christian radio stations will advertise the race for free as a public service announcement.

While it attracted serious runners by offering prizes to winners and planning a very professional event, the committee wisely made it a family-friendly event. A balloon jump, face painting, helium balloons, a DJ, and games for kids were also part of the event, along with the option of the less strenuous 1 mile run/walk for participants unable to or uninterested in the 5k distance.

Chavez and his committee have graciously offered samples of their materials to any chapter or state interested in following suit by planning their own "Born to Run."

"There are things we learned the hard way," said Chavez, "but no obstacle was insurmountable. Organizing a 10k or 5k run/walk is not as daunting as it might seem. The key ingredient in making this event a success was having a dedicated committee."

If you would like more details on "Born to Run" please e-mail me at chapters@nrlc.org or call (202) 626-8809.