I am also a volunteer for Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Soarin' Hawk helps injured and orphaned raptors return to the wild. We also give presentations and classes to teach children and adults about birds of prey. All of us, even the veterinarian, are volunteers. I am the dispatcher for Soarin' Hawk, I conduct rescues, I give presentations, and I help with the birds that need intensive care or special physical therapy.
Immediately after the official launch of R4B, I approached the board of directors of Soarin Hawk Raptor Rehab about hosting and benefiting from an R4B fundraiser. They jumped at the idea without hesitation, and it's easy to see why. It appeals to just about every demographic!
Parents love it because it gets the kids out of the house, and away from their phones and video games.
Teachers love it because it encourages kids to do research, and identifying birds force s kids to fine tune their attention to detail. Those skills carry over into the classroom.
Kids love it. The athletes and competitive kids like the adrenalin rush while the quiet kids enjoy the planning, studying and listening required to be a top birder.
Sponsors love it because their advertising dollars build goodwill in the community while raising awareness about a cause or organization.
The board of Soarin Hawk recognized that R4B would have broad appeal, so we scheduled the event right away. We set our goals: 20 kids and we wanted to net $1,000.00. We exceeded both goals by 50%, but I'll tell you more about that later.
We chose a date during migration so we'd see a wider variety of birds. We also chose a starting point that was centrally located, is known to be great for birding, and is accessible to children of all abilities.
To advertise we used the social media outlets, flyers, and websites. We also sent out press releases to all of the local media. To find participants and sponsors, we contacted everyone we knew. We spoke with groups and we handed out flyers at schools, parks and businesses.
We arranged to have most of Soarin Hawk's education birds waiting at the finish line to greet the kids. We also had a buffet table set up with pizza donated by Pizza Hut and healthy snacks donated by Doud Orchards for the kids.
The finish line was inside a bird observation building so the kids could sit down and eat while watching even more birds. Meanwhile they could get their photos taken with our raptors - hawks, falcons, owls - and learn more about raptors and rehabilitation from the Soarin Hawk staff.
Twenty kids registered for the event, but on the day of the race we had about 50% more kids show up than had registered - 28 children participated. A portion of the kids were unable to get to the starting line due to a road closure but they improvised and joined us as soon as they could.
I am proud to announce that we beat our goal of $1,000.00. We raised over $1,500.00 ! And that is net gain. Everything was donated - the banners, the prizes, the food, even the venue! So 100% of the money we raised will go toward the medical expenses and feeding of the birds of prey!
Soarin Hawk is so excited by the results, they want to have an R4B event every year! They would like to build a new facility, and the type of exposure R4B has brought them may help them achieve their goal so that more birds and audiences will benefit.
Perhaps more importantly the event captured the attention of a lot of kids that had little or no interest in birds. Several of those kids are now interested in birding and becoming volunteers.
So the R4B event was a huge success on many levels.
From the beginning the board members and mentors at R4B were incredibly helpful. Any question I had was immediately answered, and the website contains everything you need to get started. The people connected with R4B are so well known and respected that the association with them was enough to gain the interest of anyone remotely familiar with birding. Our event was a tremendous success and we would not have been able to accomplish what we did without R4B's support.
Since I had the help of the R4B board and mentors, everything went better than expected. There are only a couple of things I would do differently. I would have the starting line and finish line be in the same location. We had them in two separate locations at the request of our sponsors. Two park systems wanted the exposure and rather than choose just one, we tried to please both of them. However having two locations caused some confusion.
I would also set a rain date. We were lucky because we had perfect weather. Next time we might not be as lucky.
I would highly recommend holding an R4B event. The level of help and expertise you have at your disposal from the website, board and mentors is unmatched. You'll increase your visibility in the community, especially among young people. You'll help children find a way to become involved with a good cause, or at least engage in an outdoor activity that will last their entire lifetime. In short, R4B will help you make a difference!