By The Cystic Fibrosis FoundationWhen employees of Ambling Companies, a real estate development and management firm set out to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis, they transformed the Valdosta, Ga., Great Strides from a stroll around the block into a more adventurous walk in the park. Now held at Wild Adventures theme park, the walk and activities raised more than $93,000 in 2009 to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Getting Started with Small Strides
Mike Godwin, president and CEO of Ambling helped launch Valdosta’s first Great Strides walk in 2002. When he learned his close friends’ child was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Mike recalls, he “couldn’t just sit by and do nothing.” Raising funds for a cure, he decided, was the best way to make a difference.
Mike contacted the CF Foundation’s Georgia Chapter, and, working with then Executive Director Maureen Fraser, planned the first Valdosta walk in just 30 days. Mike describes the event’s humble beginnings: “We held the walk at a local school, and we set a goal to raise $10,000.” With a little effort and a lot of determination, they doubled their goal.
Encouraged by their success, Mike began to think bigger about the next year’s Great Strides, and he turned to Ambling employees for backup. As the word spread about the walk, he was surprised to learn of several more connections to CF among Ambling employees. “There are a lot of people that have been affected by the disease in some way,” he says.
While Mike’s efforts to kick-start the walk were key to its success, many Ambling employees have embraced the cause. “I’m extremely proud of how everyone has come together to support this cause with whatever means they have,” he says.
Employees have also recruited many other businesses in the local community to support Great Strides.
This growth in participation gives Mike confidence that the event will remain strong for years to come: “No matter what, the event will still go on because it has support from so many groups,” he says.
Location, Location, Location
In the process of planning the city’s second Great Strides, Mike learned that a key to wise real estate investment applied to fundraising, too: location, location, location. He teamed up with the local Wild Adventures theme park, a more exciting location for the event.
To bring in new volunteers, the theme park offered free tickets as an incentive to walkers. Volunteers who raised a certain amount of money could go back into the theme park after the walk and enjoy the rides and attractions.
Mike credits the collective efforts of Ambling employees, its business partners and others in the community who have stepped forward to help boost participation and revenue for the Valdosta Great Strides.
“We can see a cure for CF in our lifetime,” Mike says. “We just need to keep writing the little checks and the big checks, and we’ll get there.”
The Valdosta, Ga. Great Strides walk has raised more than $1 million since it began in 2002, thanks in large part to Ambling's support.