Volkssport and social engagement

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2012/11/30 by grahamfawcett2012

Bell Kids Help Line Fundraising Walk, Ottawa, Canada

Adopt a Roadway volunteers, Orléans, ON Canada

One of the walking clubs that I am a member of has decided to engage itself with the broader community through volunteer service for other organizations. A former club president ‘sets the trail’ for the Bell Kids Help Phone, a free help line service intended for children who need advice or support. Our second volunteer service is a roadside cleanup done twice a year in spring and fall. We are responsible for a long stretch of road leading to a major highway, so in cleaning both sides of the road, we actually walk 5 km. Cars driving by always honk their horns in support and appreciation when they see us. Although it does give us personal visibility only two days a year, permanent signs recognizing our contribution are there for all to see, in both directions, for the entire year. Many different types of volunteer organizations do this particular type of community service throughout Canada. The third community service is the dedication of all participation fees from a designated walk to a community service raising money so that children in need may have proper nutrition – ‘Move Your Feet So Kids Can Eat’.

I don’t believe our walking club members are terribly different from people elsewhere. Through some form of social engagement, there are many who want to do good works for the benefit of their communities. The evidence is all around us, especially in some of the large public displays of support we see for charitable organizations. Trying to organize a two-day walking event, or sometimes even a single-day event, on a weekend in the fair weather months always risks conflict with some other large-scale activity, usually some form of run for a good cause. Think of the Run for the Cure (Cancer), the Army Run (Military families), the MS Run, the Terry Fox Run ( a private charity), and so on. They are hugely successful, and the very same people we would like to attract to Volkssport are doing these events in the thousands.

How could we become involved in these other organizations? Do we have to give or raise money? Not necessarily, I think. One easy answer is to help them organize and administer their events. What do we have to offer them? Our assets are our knowledge and experience. Our leaders and volunteers are already trained and experienced in running such events, setting them up, doing the record-keeping, establishing accurate trail distances, and so on. In exchange for our assistance in organizing these events, we could expect some public form of recognition, at least, if not the possibility of display tables for information about our program. I think the Terry Fox Run would be the best possibility for this. Being a privately run foundation, not a charitable organization, it may be more acceptable to those who would prefer volunteering for a different charity, or none other at all. Another possibility would be simple donations to the completion of the Trans Canada Trail. Many clubs use parts of this unique trail for some of their walk routes. As of 2013, the CVF will have a five-year Special Walking Program to direct our members to it. Why should we not help to maintain and extend it?

The greater reward for such social engagement is the sense of worthwhile contribution to one’s own community. It helps build identity, pride and unity among the club members. It can also bring awareness and recognition for our program. If others see that we are socially engaged, they will have more respect for us and, hopefully, consider our activity along with the others they may be involved in.

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