Run for India, Run for AIF

A supporter of American India Foundation in Chicago, Ritu Jain shares her reflections organizing a 5k run to raise awareness and funds for AIF.

By Ritu Jain

I’m a wife, mother of two, small business owner and a volunteer science teacher.  Apart from many other things and people, I love the country I was born and raised in— India.

As Mother Teresa said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” And when you have 16 high-energy, enthusiastic teenagers and a cause that lights the lamp of education for young people across India, there is no dearth of love.

In Chicago, our chapter is blessed with this dynamic group of high schoolers, which we affectionately call our “Jr AIF Chapter.” For many years, Jr AIF hosted a danceathon, an annual tradition that has brought countless fun and resources to AIF over the years.

This year—my very first time organizing a fundraiser—the Jr AIF team and I decided to create a family and fitness-oriented event. Immediately we thought a 5k Run idea would be a perfect model. Over the course of several meetings, we expanded the concept into the “5k Color Run,” adding a signature Holi experience, which is, of course, unique to the Indian culture. Our idea was to create a fun experience in which the participants can join their friends and families, and leave with the feeling of coming back to run again every year.

We had a lot of learnings—and fun!—along the way! Here are some tips and tricks we used to make the race more fun:

1. Unique theme. We wanted to bring in an element to gently remind our participants that this event helps the most underprivileged communities in India. With the theme of Holi, this was not only possible, but colorful and fun by bringing incisors that were spread on the runners throughout the course. Moreover, at the end of the run everyone was provided with packets of color with which to play.

2. Free fuel & entertainment. We had our local grocery stores and Pepsi donate food and Gatorade to the event. The fruits, samosas, pakoras along with an upbeat Bollywood DJ made the event more like a party.

3. Social Media: We used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as our “go-to” media platforms to spread awareness and build momentum.

4. Online Ticket Sales: We created an easy registration page for individual and group (family) tickets.

5. Personal Fundraising Pages: We create two avenues of fundraising: (1) Ticket sales, and (2) Personal fundraising pages. Each Jr AIF member created their own page where they set individual goals for running 5k and shared the page with family and friends, who contributed funds to motivate and support the child.

6. Fundraising Challenge: Each member was given a challenge to raise $1,000 on their fundraising pages, and a sales goal of 20 tickets. I am proud to say that many of our Jr AIF members not only met their goals, but some also far exceeded them.

All this planning and hard work paid off! This unlikely idea turned out to be an iconic and successful student fundraising event. Inevitably there were incredible moments that came out of the event! There was lots of color, sweaty winners, friends, family and great music. And not to forget incredible proud parents—and a much-relieved version of me.

Through the 5k Color Run, we hosted 150 runners and raised more than $18,000—but, more importantly, we had a great time in doing so! I highly encourage anyone across the country to think creatively and act collectively to build community and support for AIF while having fun.

Shelby Crowell

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