A year ago, Savannah raised more than $100,000 in the fight against diabetes.
Now the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association is looking to top that number.
Tuesday marks the opening of fundraising season as the ADA holds its Kickoff Celebration for its annual Sunsplash Outdoor Fitness Festival in September.
Taking place at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa, the kickoff is geared for those interested in taking part in the ADA’s annual drive to help fund its research, advocacy, programs and services to the more than 30,000 people in Chatham County living with diabetes.
“It’s a big kickoff celebration where we try to get everyone excited about the year,” said ADA’s Suzanne Willis. “We’re going to have appetizers, drinks. We’ll have a short program where we’ll talk about diabetes.
“This year, we’re really focusing on having some really fun activities. It’s to get everyone excited about fundraising and to get some awareness about diabetes.”
The kickoff, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, is open to the public and all who may be interested in taking part in the September festival are invited to attend and will be entered into a drawing to win a Heavenly Spa package at the Westin or a round of golf for a foursome at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
“We’re trying to encourage people to come out and hear about what we’re doing,” Willis said. “We want to get as many people out there as we can.”
After the kickoff, teams will raise funds and pledges at the Outdoor Fitness Festival at the UGA Extension Service Aquarium on Skidaway Island on Sept. 25. The Festival will include a 5K walk, a 20-, 40- or 60-mile bike ride throughout Skidaway Island and The Landings and kayaking down a three-mile stretch of the Skidaway River.
Last year, the first year the festival involved more than just the 5K, the festival raised more than $104,000 for the ADA through donations, pledges and sponsorships, .
“The event has kind of evolved,” Willis said. “It’s great for us because it really promotes exercise, a key ingredient when talking about diabetes. We’re really trying to tailor this to all of Savannah because there is so many people who can get out there.”
After the conclusion of the walking, riding and kayaking, the festival will feature live music, food and children’s activities.
While teams can raise funs in traditional ways, seeking business sponsorships or pledges, Willis said the most effective teams go viral.
“One of the best ways is by going on our website and utilizing everyone’s sphere of influence, sending an e-mail out telling them what they’re doing and how to donate online,” Willis said. “We’ve got different applications that can go on Facebook and you can have your friends donate online on Facebook.”
By Rich McGowan