With more than 33,000 people participating in HBF’s latest Run for a Reason, there is no doubt that mass participation running, riding, and walking events have become popular among Western Australians.
But events such as Run for a Reason are about more than a personal challenge or a fun way to get involved in fitness, with the $10 million or so raised over the event’s 10-year history injected back into the community where it is most needed.
In 2009, HBF, which previously was the naming rights sponsor for Perth’s City2Surf running event, launched its first iteration of Run for a Reason, after the health insurer decided it could make a bigger impact on the community by owning and controlling its own event.
HBF head of sponsorship and community engagement Alex Weir said the rationale behind starting a new event was that the insurer wanted to better support its four prime beneficiaries – Cancer Council WA, the Heart Foundation, Lifeline WA, and Diabetes WA.
“The reason they were selected as beneficiaries, and this goes to why we were involved in it in the first place, was that the prevalence of those four conditions or illnesses is so significant within the community,” Mr Weir told Business News.
“Whether it’s cancer, cardiac or heart-related conditions, depression and anxiety, or whether it is diabetes – they are the four big-ticket items when it comes to health conditions and issues that people in the community face.
“We also knew that each of those conditions or illnesses could be positively influenced through exercise.
“Whether you have cancer, a heart condition or depression, they can all be positively influenced by being more physically active.”
As well as the four charity partners, other health-related charities are able to use the event as a platform for fundraising.
Mr Weir said at this year’s event, more than 190 different charities leveraged Run for a Reason to raise funds.
While Mr Weir said Run for a Reason was a significant undertaking for HBF, it was driven by a desire to be active in the community in which it operated.
“We’re a WA-based organisation that’s been around for 75 years and it’s something that we can do to provide a benefit back into the community,” he said.
“The fundraising dollars that are raised, every single dollar of that $10 million goes straight the charities – it’s not used to fund the event, it is purely for the charities.
“The other side of it is it has a positive impact on the health of the community.
“We know that because we research it, we survey people who have been in the event and in the training programs leading up to the event in terms of their levels of physical activity before the event and their levels of physical activity post the event.”
With WA’s climate and natural environment providing year-round opportunities for individuals to get active, prospective participants are spoiled for choice in mass participation fundraising activities.
Events are as varied as they are numerous across the fundraising sector, with community benefit a common factor for many.
For example, the Chevron City2Surf acts as a major fundraiser for Activ, the state’s leading disabilities provider, while RSPCA’s Million Paws Walk raised more than $28,000 in 2019 to help fight animal cruelty.
Other events encourage participants to get on two wheels, the largest being the MACA Cancer 200, which has raised more than $29 million since its inception in 2012, vital funds that go towards cancer research at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.
Mr Weir said HBF tailored the Run for a Reason to have the widest appeal possible, rather than designing it for competitive athletes in a similar manner to City2Surf or the MACA Cancer 200, which involves a 200-kilometre ride.
“We have never been about trying to attract elite athletes,” he said.
“For us, it’s been about community; our prize money is not particularly high and we are not afraid of talking about that, it’s about getting your average mum and dad involved, getting them off the couch if that’s what they’re doing, and just getting out and being a bit more active.”
Participants in the Hawaiian Ride for Youth have raised more than $25 million for mental health initiatives since 2001. Photo: Hawaiian.
Another popular event is cycling fundraiser Hawaiian Ride for Youth, which has raised more than $25 million since being established in 2001 to help tackle youth suicide and depression.
The event is a serious undertaking, with participants choosing to ride from either Albany or Jurien Bay to Perth to raise funds and awareness for Youth Focus.
More than 170 riders took part in the 2019 event, choosing from four different routes that add up to nearly 3,000km.
The riders also visit regional schools along the way, to share a message of support and assistance in the mental health arena.
Hawaiian chief executive Russell Gibbs, who has participated in the ride three times since 2013, said the company chose to sponsor the event to make a real difference in the lives of those who most needed it in the community.
“We recognise the impact of mental health and support Youth Focus in their endeavours to prevent suicide and self-harm behaviours in young people throughout our state,” Mr Gibbs told Business News.
“At Hawaiian, we pride ourselves on connecting people through our places and through our community initiatives.
“We are incredibly proud of this relationship and the impact of the funds raised to date, and we will continue to work with Youth Focus on delivering outcomes to the youth of WA.”