Risk factor

Taking a chance on a new fundraiser pays off for this Wisconsin club.

Story by Julie Saetre
Photos by Debra Lake

The Mid-Morning Kiwanis Club of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, could have played it safe. Past fundraisers—a talent show, a dinner-and-a-movie combo—had done well. But members of this active club represent a wide range of ages, and they wanted an event that would appeal to a similarly broad demographic.

“We were looking for something that was a little more youthful and a little more active than just going to dinner and a show,” says nine-year club member Jon Rucinsky.

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He and his wife are fans of the popular American reality television program The Amazing Race, in which teams travel the globe, trying to be first to complete a series of challenges. Wouldn’t it be fun, they thought, to bring a similar competition to Oshkosh?

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Other members enthusiastically embraced the idea. Two major sponsors signed on with seed-money donations of US$5,000 each. Soon-to-be-competitors paid $25 to register and, through a newly created event website, developed personal fundraising pages. For every US$200 a team raised, it received a three-minute head start on the pack, up to 15 minutes.

Nine months later, The Amazing Oshkosh made its debut. Twenty-five teams of four crisscrossed the city, stopping at each of 21 local businesses to face a mental or physical challenge. Each sponsoring business donated $100 for holding a mental challenge or $500 for a physical one. Most created a challenge based on their day-to-day activities.

At the Oshkosh Police Department, teams donned gear used by the Strategic Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and learned how to rescue an injured person during a simulated active-shooter situation. Outside Richard’s School of the Dance, they performed a choreographed routine to a popular song. A family restaurant known for its root beer floats had competitors re-create the icy treat in a pitcher and then drink it; if any spilling or dripping occurred, the team received a time penalty.

“We pitched this as an opportunity for (sponsors) to be active in the community and to invite people into their place of business,” Rucinsky says. “It was great to see how the businesses made these unique challenges that reflected a bit of what they do.”

By the time the last team crossed the finish line, the club had raised about $17,000 for its many service projects—and before long, both competitors and sponsors were inquiring about the date for next year’s race.

“It was a big undertaking for us, giving up our already proven format of a fundraiser,” Rucinsky says. “But it was great. I couldn’t be happier with the way everything worked out.”

This story originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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