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October 27, 2016
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A Day At the Races (I) — Before the Event

Most of us who have been around the diabetes community, or any running, cycling, or charity-event community, have had the opportunity to participate in a large event either as a participant or as a volunteer. Most volunteers come in the day of the event, check in participants or hand out food or beverages for a few hours, and go home. Participants sign up, solicit donations (if it's a charity event), show up, burn some calories, maybe eat some food, and go home. Very few of us get to see how much work, and how many people, it takes to put on an event. If you've ever wondered why the fundraising bar for charity cycling rides is set at $200, $500, $3000, or more... this is why.


Let's start at the beginning. Most of the real work of an event starts months before the day of the race, ride, or walk.


First, a date has to be set. This date may depend on the venue whether the sign-in or finish-line park is available, for example. This is particularly important if the event is a one-off, or what the organizers hope will be the "First Annual".


Permit requests need to be filed so the planned route will be cleaned, cleared, and blocked off. Extra police, fire, and rescue operators need to be scheduled to keep the paths clear for the participants and get injured participants the medical care they need; their wages are paid by fees charged to the event organizers. Event and liability insurances must be procured and paid for.


The various sign-in, sign-out, and refreshment set-ups need to be planned for. This usually means renting tables, chairs, and tents, procuring food and beverage preferably donated by a sponsor whose logo will join yours on the collateral (brochures, ads, T-shirts, and so on) for the event and recruiting volunteers.


More volunteers or if the event is large enough, charter transportation operators will need to be procured to run drop-out vans and buses for those participants who are unable to complete the course.


If the event includes medical stations separate from (or more complete than) rescue squad vehicles, then tents, cots, and medical supplies need to be added to the list of things to rent, purchase, or request as donations, and appropriate medical staff whether paid or volunteer recruited.


Trained communications volunteers are needed to keep track of where the participants are on the course, keep the event director apprised of any incidents, keep the logistics director apprised of any particular needs (such as a runner who needs a vehicle to pick him up between rest stations or a cyclist who needs a flat repaired), make sure the roads are free of downed trees and potholes, and get traffic directors on-scene to move the mass of participants around a crash or pile-up.


A volunteer coordinator may keep track of all of the event's volunteers himself, or he may have lieutenants responsible for specific volunteer details.


Event logos need to be designed, Web domains purchased, sites created, flyers designed and printed, and social media identities established and maintained.


Much of this has to happen before the first participant is signed up, before the first non-committee volunteer is recruited, and sometimes even before the first major corporate sponsor has been solicited.


As the event progresses from initial plan towards the day of the planned activity, participants must be recruited and encouraged in their training, recruiting, and fundraising activities. Corporate and business sponsors must be recruited and donations solicited. Press releases need to be prepared, journalists kept apprised of the event, T-shirts (and other volunteer and participant identification) procured, day-of-event awards designed and ordered, and so on.


There's a lot more to this story we've not even gotten to the event itself. The conclusion to "A Day at the Races" will post on Thursday, November 10 the day after D-Blog Day.

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