Lifestyles

Run for Water: Sponsors make the difference

submitted by Justin D. Klassen

Sponsor and Donor Relations

Run for Water Society

Preparations for the 2014 Envision Financial Run for Water are in full swing. Runners are training for their races and honing their fundraising skills. Race day volunteers are finding out how they can help. Students across the Fraser Valley are scheduling mini-runs and undertaking other fundraising efforts for clean water projects in Ethiopia. And members of the Run for Water Society are working hard to make this year’s event the best ever.

But even these multiple efforts don’t tell the whole story of the Fraser Valley’s enthusiasm and passion for bringing clean water to those who need it most. Anyone who has attended in previous years will know that Envision Financial Run for Water is a high-calibre event that involves the coordination of thousands of participants over a large area. There are many significant costs associated with pulling off an event of this magnitude with the requisite levels of safety and professionalism. Considering these costs, and the fact that race fees alone don’t come close to covering them, you may wonder how fundraising dollars can make it all the way to Ethiopia and bring clean water to thousands of people. In 2013, Run for Water raised $358,000 for the cause. That figure spells reliable access to clean water for over 10,000 people. But what’s the rest of the story here? Who helps to offset the costs of the race so that the money you raise over and above your race fee can make such an enormous difference?

Corporate sponsors—most of them local businesses—make significant contributions in order to ensure that the fundraising efforts of participants, students, and other donors can bear fruit on the ground in Ethiopia. These are businesses that, for a variety of reasons, see the benefits of cultivating in our local community a sense of camaraderie that extends to global citizenship. They are an essential part of the clean water movement and deserve our recognition and accolades.

I recently sat down and conversed with three of our corporate sponsors about what they do in the community and why they support Envision Financial Run for Water, so that Abby News readers could get a sense of what it means for a business to be passionate about this cause.

Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers Ltd.

Valley Carriers is an Abbotsford-based trucking company that was founded in 1963. They produce and haul a variety of bulk materials, mostly wood products. If you live in or near Abbotsford, you have probably seen their trucks on the road. They have been an enthusiastic sponsor of Envision Financial Run for Water for three years.

Perhaps the trait that most clearly defines Valley Carriers as a company is that it is a family business. I recently spoke with Erin Parkes, who is a third generation owner of the company. Erin told me that Neil Klassen, her grandfather and the company’s founder, “always instilled in us the importance of giving back to the community.” Neil was constantly seeking and finding worthy causes to support, and Erin told me that the family’s decision to sponsor Run for Water was part of a concerted effort to carry on her grandfather’s legacy.

I asked Erin what it is about Run for Water that appeals to Valley Carriers’ particular interests in community investment. “I’m a runner,” she said, “so I ran in the Run for Water event a few years ago and had a great time. Then I began to learn more about the cause. In the end it was easy for us to make a decision about sponsorship because it’s a great community event that is led by people who want to inspire others to do good things in the world.” Cutting right to the heart of what sponsorship does for the clean water movement, Erin explained that Valley Carriers “understands there are a lot of costs in setting up an event, and if you want all of your donations to go right to the cause then you need sponsors to defray those costs.”

I also wanted to know what Erin thought about how sponsoring an event like Envision Financial Run for Water affects a business internally. “We invite our employees to join too,” she told me. “We’ll take care of all the costs. We just want people to get involved and then they can give back.” I asked if she thinks that cultivating this ethos of giving back can have a positive effect on management-employee relationships. “Yes,” she replied, “you begin talking about it, one on one, and it starts as employer-employee, but then friendships evolve from there as you start talking about real causes that actually affect you and mean something to you.” In Valley Carriers’ estimation, then, the cost of sponsorship pays dividends both for the sponsored cause and within the sponsoring company.

Peninsula Runners

Peninsula Runners opened its first store 18 years ago in White Rock. Current partner Philip Ellis told me the founders “wanted to provide a local running store to make their community a healthier and fitter place.” He explained further that “the idea was to be a running store for anybody—any level of runner.” Peninsula Runners Langley came along in 2001, and the Abbotsford location opened almost three years ago. Peninsula Runners has recently come on board as a silver sponsor of Envision Financial Run for Water.

“We really like to focus on being a local store,” Phil told me. One of the virtues of this focus is that as a business Peninsula has become a real stakeholder in the communities where it is rooted. “We put on events for runners; we put on a lot of clinics; we spearheaded efforts in South Surrey to build a public track. We really try to make a special effort to help people find enjoyment through the sport.”

As a business that focuses on running, Peninsula Runners has a natural tie-in with Run for Water. But Phil says their sponsorship is about more than a business-related affinity. “I remember when Run for Water first started and I was amazed at how successful it was, even the first couple of years. I thought it was a really positive event. We wanted to become involved and we’ve always promoted the event. Even before we became an official sponsor, we knew it was a good thing for the community.”

Run for Water also appeals to Peninsula Runners in virtue of the movement’s global emphasis. “Most definitely it appeals to us,” Phil said of the goal to raise money for clean water projects in Africa. “Myself, I’m a big water guy; that’s my drink! As a runner you kind of have to drink water, right? So for me, the availability of water is so important. I would have a hard time living in a place where I didn’t have access to fresh water. So I can only imagine the difficulties faced by the people we’re trying to help. Water is the key to life.” Nicely capturing Envision Financial Run for Water’s emphasis on global citizenship, Phil summed up by saying, “I think it is a great cause. Of course we have local issues that we need to address, but the globe is small. You need to have a global consciousness these days. Our problems are shared problems and we need to do what we can to help each other.”

Mountainside Design + Build

Mountainside Design + Build was founded in 2006 by local construction veteran Ed Kostelyk and his son Jake. In the years since then, Mountainside has grown from its initial focus on renovations to its current capacity for integrated design and build, a model that they feel helps to address some of the uncertainties involved in building a new home. “With our model,” Jake explained to me, “the design team works in conjunction with the construction team from day one. So we can design a house that we know is going to fit someone’s budget and offer certainty about costs from the beginning.” Mountainside is currently working on projects throughout the Fraser Valley, but remains well rooted in Abbotsford. “Almost all of our staff are here,” Jake told me. “We like being involved in this community.” They came on board as a sponsor of Envision Financial Run for Water in 2013.

I asked Jake about Mountainside’s corporate ethos to get a sense of why they were motivated to join the clean water movement. One obvious emphasis at Mountainside is family, and everything that word entails—chiefly, relationships of mutual support. “We love being a family business,” he told me, “because our values can extend throughout the company. And we see a value in helping people where they have a need.” Naturally, as a home builder, Mountainside thinks of people’s needs in terms of all the things we normally associate with having a “home”—shelter, comfort, safety, and sustenance. These are needs that Jake believes many of us take for granted. “We can build beautiful homes for people, and go home to our houses or go to our job sites and we have food and shelter and comfort, more than enough comfort. So for us, we feel that we’ve been blessed with a lot, and we like to extend and provide some of these goods for others where we can do that.”

I asked Jake why this specific cause resonates with Mountainside’s values. “Looking at one of the Run for Water videos (http://vimeo.com/67281012) had a huge impact,” he said. “Just seeing how many lives can be changed through that basic necessity of water. And we take it for granted because water is everywhere here. For us it was eye-opening to watch that video and for both me and my dad it just made sense. We knew it was something we wanted to get involved with.” As long-time Abbotsford residents, the folks at Mountainside already had a sense of Run for Water’s local impact. “We have staff members that have run in the event before and we like the community aspect of it; it’s local, it was started by young people in this city, and we thought it was cool to get on board with it.”

Visit http://abbotsford.runforwater.ca/sponsors/sponsor-list to find out about all the other local businesses committed to this cause.

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