The 2018 New Jersey MuckFest® MS event is coming up quick, so it’s the perfect time to kick your fundraising into high gear! You can go a long way in just a few weeks, especially with these tips from Erika M. and Jessica D. from team Whoa Wyatt. They are taking fundraising by storm, and they’re sharing all that expertise with you…
On April 14, our MuckFest MS team Whoa Wyatt held a special event called “Strength in NuMberS,” a name that captures the spirit of our captain, Jessica Doninger, and her support system of family and friends. The event was a great success, raising $21,500 through ticket sales, sponsorships, raffles, and silent auctions — more than twice our total fundraising goal for the year. Our months of careful planning truly paid off and we’d like to share our experience with other muckers, so that you can build on them as you plan an event of your own.
Get by with a Little Help from Your Friends
First, identify a core group of organizers that you can count on to help with the myriad of details and long hours of planning an event like this can require. Whoa Wyatt had a group of five dedicated team members, each with assigned tasks, who put the event together. It is a lot of work and you will need to rely on each other and share responsibilities.
Early on and throughout the planning process, we sought counsel from folks who had planned events for their own charitable causes and got great advice. Their knowledge was invaluable. We also learned not to be afraid to leverage your broader network of family and friends who can offer assistance. In our case, we called upon a trusted family member, who happens to be a chef, to cater the event and two friends who run microbreweries to partner with us on beverages. We also approached friends who own businesses to come on board as our official event sponsors. These sponsorships were extremely valuable to the event, as they covered nearly all of our out-of-pocket costs.
Lay the Groundwork
The key decisions to make are the date and time of your event, the type of event you want to hold, and your venue. We decided early on to hold a raffle and silent auction because we were feeling ambitious and wanted to maximize our fundraising opportunity. (Note: Certain municipalities require a permit for raffles and you may need to obtain one.) We also decided to hold the event on a Saturday evening to allow for the maximum number of guests to attend. If you plan on hosting your event in a public venue, try looking for spaces that offer special rates to charitable causes. We held our event in a community club that offered their event room for half price to non-profit organizations. This venue also provided tables and chairs at no additional cost, which allowed us to funnel more of the funds generated by the event to the National MS Society.
Speaking of the Society, we made an early connection with Cory Zarrella, the New Jersey Metro Chapter specialist for MuckFest MS, to let the Society know about the event. The Society was able to provide us with a 501c3 letter and a donation request letter, indicating that they supported our event. These documents were extremely helpful to us as we solicited donations from the local community and beyond.
Cast a Wide Net
The two most important drivers of fundraising for Strength in NuMberS were ticket sales and raffle and auction proceeds. We set the ticket cost at $50, which included food, drinks, and a set number of chances in a “tier 1” raffle. To maximize our fundraising potential, we also set up a “premium tier” raffle with specially priced tickets and held a silent auction. Our goal was to provide a variety of ways for our guests to participate in the event — from the smaller to the larger scale.
That said, neither our raffles nor our silent auction would have been possible without some incredible donations from friends and family, local and national businesses, and even some household name celebrities. The key to collecting all of those donations was our standard solicitation letter. Comprehensive tips for writing a solicitation letter can be found online, but in short, your letter should be concise and compelling — and include a personal story, if possible. In our letter, we were able to talk about our team captain Jessica’s journey with MS and the personal empowerment that fundraising for a cure gives her. Her story clearly touched people, as we received 130 separate donations for the raffle and silent auction. We would also encourage you to send as many requests as time allows.
Many companies accept requests only through online portals and some have restrictive deadlines (eg, requests need to be made at least 8 weeks prior to your event) so you should begin making requests well in advance of your event date. Sites like DonationMatch.com can also be helpful as a way to make multiple requests to different donors at once. If you are interested in soliciting celebrity donations, sites like ContactAnyCelebrity.com can give you access to their agents’ or publicists’ contact information for a fee. We had great success with this channel, collecting donations from Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling, Ke$ha, and Annie Leibovitz to name a few.
We also worked hard to identify partners or donors for materials that could have resulted in out of pocket expenses. For instance, a local advertising agency covered our design and print production needs, Classic Café Management donated $500 worth of food to the event, and a local florist provided us with centerpieces at wholesale cost. Look for people within your networks that are capable of making your event more successful and ask for their support.
The worst anyone can say is no, so ask, ask, and ask some more. We found that most people were more than willing to help with a donation or with their time, and we were frequently blown away by the generosity of our community.
Keeping Everything Straight
This certainly isn’t the fun part, but it’s vital. To track our donations and ticket sales carefully, we used a simple Excel spreadsheet. We also leveraged Event Brite’s platform for ticket sales to help us reach guests who wanted to pre-purchase tickets online.
The night of the event, our front-of-house volunteers carefully logged tickets and raffle chances purchased at the door, as well as our final bids for each silent auction. Guests were asked to present their winning tickets to the volunteers and close out all auctions before leaving with their prizes. With two volunteers at the front of the house and about 100 guests, we were able to manage this easily.
Make It Meaningful and Magical
We made some choices for our event that might have meant a higher out-of-pocket cost but that we thought would bring a little magic to our evening and give our guests an even better experience. Namely, we chose to have live music, floral arrangements, and a step-and-repeat for photo opportunities. Our live entertainment was provided by an acoustic duo; the volume level and song selection was perfect for our chatty and multigenerational crowd. The step-and-repeat was a great addition to the festive atmosphere of the event.
Jessica also chose to share her story with our guests in a brief and very touching speech during the event. Her remarks served to thank all of our donors and guests and also ended up grounding everyone on just how personal and important the search for a cure is to our team. In fact, several guests were inspired to immediately register for MuckFest MS! It was a beautiful and poignant moment in the evening.
Guest post written by Boston Mucker, Jennifer A. She is Boston Strong, an MS warrior, and an amazing mother and wife. She returned to team “Just Keep Smyelin” at the 2018 Boston MuckFest® MS.
2013 proved to be a year of heartache and triumph for the city of Boston, as it did for the Almodovar family, as well. My husband, Archie, and I welcomed our daughter into this beautiful city only a few days after the Red Sox won the World Championship at home. After she was born, the entire left side of my body was paralyzed. Growing up, I remember dancing on the toes of my father as he held my hands. It was a childhood memory I suddenly didn’t think I’d get to share with my own little girl. My pregnancy had its hiccups along the way. In the beginning of my second trimester, Archie and I stood at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, appreciating the blue sky and joyful exclamations as the first runners began passing by. My morning sickness drew us away from the crowds until we found a place to sit and rest. We were two blocks away when the bombs exploded and sought shelter in the W Hotel downtown for the next 9 hours.
As the pregnancy progressed, my legs experienced weakness and my back spasmed uncontrollably at times. That summer, I fell while stepping into the shower as my left leg gave out beneath me. A careless mistake, we assured ourselves. Months later, both of my legs collapsed as I walked hand in hand with Archie after celebrating our first wedding anniversary together. Surely, it could only be from the fatigue that comes with being eight months pregnant.
It was a regular Tuesday afternoon, like any other New Year’s Eve before it. A day full of anticipation for new beginnings and a sense of relief in kissing 2013 behind us, with one exception. We had my follow-up neurology appointment at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to review my brain and spine MRI results. As a graduate student at Harvard University, my studies focused on neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases. I knew all too well what it meant for my physical examination to have revealed bilateral clonus and hyperreflexia prior to having scans done. This appointment was what could be called, “the moment of truth,” in every MS patient’s story.
My husband looked to me to answer the millions of questions that come along with scan results depicting demyelinating plaque at C4 and T2 in my spine. I held my 6-week-old baby in a chest carrier when we received the diagnosis and I remember kissing the top of her head, trembling with fear of the battle awaiting us. The days following the diagnosis were lived in silence, with only the occasional crying of a tiny baby, a distraught husband, and a new mom who no longer felt she could be the hero her daughter needed.
In April of 2014, we made the decision to move our small family to my hometown of Jacksonville, FL, where Mayo Clinic’s sister campus was located. From wheelchairs to walkers, to IV Solumedrol treatments and spinal nerve root ablations, it would take three years and a village of family and friends to learn to walk again on my own. For three years, I felt as if I sat on the sidelines of my daughter’s life, watching everyone else able to help her. The only time I felt immersed in her little world came when she began learning the alphabet, her numbers, and reading as a toddler. I didn’t know how to be a mom in a wheelchair, but tutoring young children was a passion of mine that started as a high school student volunteering at Hope Haven, an after-school program for children with physical and developmental disabilities. Finally, I realized a way to connect with my daughter and help her grow the way any parent wants to contribute to their child’s life.
Multiple Sclerosis can not only rob the body of physical functions, but also significantly strain the mind of the patient. Within the first year on medications I dropped from 135 lbs. to 118 lbs. Being 5’10”, the weight loss quickly showed on my ribcage and emaciated facial appearance. In addition to navigating the labyrinth of PTSD symptoms from the Boston Marathon, I struggled with clinical depression, fatigue, muscle weakness, spasticity, and chronic pain. The hardest symptom to overcome, however, was in my own head. The majority of my self-identity up to that point revolved around my photographic memory. As a student, it was my single greatest point of pride. MS stripped me of that ability as I suffered a series of grand mal seizures in January of 2016. The seizures turned out to be a blessing in disguise though.
After beginning medications to control them, I regained a portion of my previous ability to form new memories, organize my thoughts, and even hold a fairly normal conversation again. It was the beginning of a wonderful series of hopeful events. Being able to organize my thoughts meant I could remember my physical therapy routines more easily, I followed a strict medication routine and diet, I slowly became stronger as an MS patient, a mother, and a partner to my husband. I began to resemble the woman who cheered on the runners at the Marathon, and blue skies were certainly above us once more.
In March of 2017, we moved back to Boston. We found the perfect home in the town of Stoneham, walking distance to St. Patrick Catholic Church and School, where our daughter begins Pre-K 4 in the Fall. As newcomers to the community, we were often asked why anyone would leave Florida to face the brutal winters of Boston? That, to us at least, remains a no-brainer.
Because we are Boston Strong.
Our daughter was born here. This is the city we call home. Boston gives us strength to keep fighting, not only for a cure for MS, but also this city reminds us of what it means to never give up.
And yes, my daughter laughs when I hold her hands as she stands on my feet to waltz in our kitchen. Her name is Aida Medina and she is the reason why I tirelessly fight to end this disease.
If you’ve never done a MuckFest® MS before, it’s unlikely you’ve ever experienced anything like it. We’re not like other 5Ks, and we’re not like other mud runs. We are a muckin’ original, and if you’re joining us this year, you might have some questions. Luckily, we have the answers! Here’s what you need to know…
This isn’t like other mud runs
MuckFest MS is meant to be a day of action-packed fun! It’s not a competition, and there is no “winner.” You’re all winners! The only contest is to see who can get the muddiest, so people of all skill and fitness levels can come out to the mud.
Don’t stress about your start time or your finish time…just worry about who has the most epic wipe-out as you conquer 18 crazy obstacles!
Mud is for everyone!
Though you must be 12 years old to run, we don’t want the kiddos to feel left out! That’s why we have a Lil’ Muckers area for kids aged 5-11. They can come and get in on the muddy fun, too!
If you don’t want to get muddy, you can cheer from the sidelines! We love having a big crowd out to motivate and support our Muckers! You can also volunteer, too. We couldn’t do it without our amazing volunteers!
Join (or create) a team
MuckFest MS can be done solo, but everything is better with friends! We have Team Captain Facebook Groups for our events (you can check them out here) so you can join a team or get advice on how to recruit your pals to join you! Lots of teams also do fundraising and training events together, which will get you in the MuckFest MS spirit before the run.
Rock the gear
Wear closed-toe sneakers – No cleats allowed! Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting mucky, and you should wear clothes that won’t restrict your movement and provide protection. Pants or shorts are fine, and many muckers wear thin work or athletic gloves to get a better grip on obstacles. We recommend wearing your hair up to keep it out of your face, and bandanas/headbands are a great idea for everyone.
Lots of Muckers also dress in fun costumes like kilts, tutus, and more! So, feel free to get creative with your outfit!
Pack a bag
Everyone gets a t-shirt at the end of the event and we also have an area to wash off, but we definitely recommend bringing at least bottoms to change into and flip flops or other sandals for your muddy feet. Maybe bring some baby wipes for extra cleaning, too… 😉
You have to BELIEVE
Most people don’t army crawl through mud, swing into muddy water, or scale a mud hill on their average weekend. Try new things, test your boundaries and surprise yourself with your skills!
Take the wins with the wipe outs
You might fall down. You might faceplant in the mud. But you are also going to conquer an awesome 5K, get muddy and have a muddy blast.
When you raise your beer to toast your teammates in the MuckFestival, remember all that you’ve accomplished and how muckin’ awesome you are every day.
Drink water leading up to, and after you get all mucked up. We also have a free beer for the 21+ crowd who Muck with us. Because every good workout should be celebrated with a beer at the end!
Aside from being fun, MuckFest MS is a great spot to get fun photos! Want a great shot for the family holiday card? Need a new Facebook or dating app profile pic? We have you covered! We have a photographer on hand at every event capturing all the magical moments. You can relive Muck again and again.
Philly, you took on the weekend in EPIC muddy fashion. Way to get down and dirty for two straight days, raising nearly $400K! Check out these highlights from MuckFest MS Philadelphia!
More participant photos are coming soon as well!
“You might look at someone, and think, ‘You don’t look like you have MS.’
But what does someone with MS look like? We look like you!”
Walter Clark (his friends call him Spike) knows he might not immediately appear like he is living with multiple sclerosis. But, it has been nearly a decade since he received his diagnosis. Since then, his life has never been the same. He hasn’t let that stop him from living his life though, and from doing all he can to support others who are fighting the same fight.
He began giving that support, and participating in National MS Society events, the spring after his diagnosis. That started with Walk MS and led him to MuckFest® MS Philadelphia the following year! He admits he wasn’t fully prepared for that first run, but that didn’t stop him from coming back again the next year, and the next…and the next!
“After doing it, there’s such a sense of accomplishment. I completed that! You feel great about yourself, and it’s going towards people who are living with this horrible disease.”
Spike loves feeling this sense of accomplishment personally, but also loves to see it on the faces of his teammates as they cross the finish line. And what a team it is! “Spike’s Wolfpack” started with only Spike and two friends, but it’s now grown to include many other family and friends.
They’re in it together!
“I always look forward to seeing people’s smiling faces at the end. They’re so proud. I like seeing everyone getting dirty and laughing and having that comradery. Or that smile when you accomplished something you didn’t think you could.”
He remembers one time specifically where his friend’s mom, who was very afraid of heights, balked when she saw Mt. Muck-imanjaro. She didn’t know if she could tackle the obstacle, but the whole team came together to cheer her on and support her. She made it to the top, then completed the obstacle (and the run!) with a huge smile on her face.
That is what MuckFest MS is all about for Spike: tackling your fears. And of course, having a lot of fun in the mud!
Other than Mt. Muck-imanjaro, Spike also loves the Flying Muckers zip line, The Spinner, Swingset, and Big Balls. (Whatever gets him the muddiest!) Last year, he even did a huge belly flop to start off the run with a splash!
For first-time Muckers, he recommends staying as active as you can leading up to the race. He also recommends bringing extra clothes, a pair of flip flops and a towel to clean up with after you get down in the muck. Come, get ready to get mucky, and know that you’re doing an amazing thing by participating.
Jennifer Martel is a passionate mucker who walks in memory of her father, and we’re so excited to share her MuckFest® MS story with you! Be sure to scroll through the whole post to see pictures of Jennifer and her team.
My senior year of high school was a very memorable one. My mother was pregnant with my youngest brother as I was preparing to enter adulthood. I am the oldest child of seven, with 18 years between me and the youngest. What should have been a year of happy events actually turned out to be a year of mixed emotions for my family in 1991.
My father, who was 39 at the time, began experiencing numbness and tingling in his hands. His walking started to become unstable, almost as if he were drunk. Many visits to his primary care physician resulted in no definitive answers other than the possibility of carpel tunnel syndrome. An MRI was out of the question due to previously being shot by a pellet gun, which lodged a pellet behind his eye. Removal was not recommended and because of the magnetic imaging, he could not risk having the pellet move due to where it had been sitting for several years.
As his symptoms worsened, he made a visit to Brigham & Women’s Hospital. There he met a wonderful neurologist who administered a spinal tap. The spinal tap revealed a diagnosis we had never really heard much of: MS. Not only did my hardworking father of seven have multiple sclerosis, but he had Primary Progressive MS. Within a couple of years he was forced to retire from his textile printing job that he loved.
His symptoms worsened to the point where he needed a cane to help him walk. In 1994 I was blessed to have him still be able to walk me down the aisle and have our father-daughter dance. That was his best with the disease. Following would be issues with incontinence, swallowing and even breathing. In 1996, he was in a wheelchair. By 2008 he was in a long-term care facility. My mother tried to keep him at home but his care became 24/7.
He missed out on so much. He never was able to enjoy his retirement or his 5 grandchildren. His strong heart, the only part of his body unaffected by the MS, finally gave up on August 8, 2013. With his family by his bedside, he peacefully slipped away. I muck and participate in as many MS events as I can in order to honor his memory and the fight against MS. I fight so no child ever has to watch a parent suffer for so many years.
The FUN Mud Run is coming for you, Boston! We sat down with Eddy T. of “The Seacoast Muckers” for an interview, and came out of it knowing this… Eddy is a passionate Mucker, and this event is important to him and thousands of fighters across the country living with MS.
How were you introduced to MuckFest MS?
“I have MS. I was diagnosed 8.5 years ago. Within months of my diagnosis, I was connected with the MS Society. A good friend of mine from high school has MS and well, and he reached out to me and said, ‘I’m reaching out to the Society to get involved, and I’m giving them your name as well.’ So, from there, I’ve been involved with golf tournaments and muck events.”
Why is raising funds for the National MS Society important to YOU?
“The MS Society was the first place I went to gather information; to kind of calm my nerves a little bit and calm my fears. They have so many resources and so much information they can provide to people with MS, whether newly diagnosed, or running into other issues when they live with it.”
Who do you Muck with?
“I run with family and friends. My 14-year-old son does it with me, and a whole group of friends.”
How would you describe MuckFest MS?
“The comradery of everyone there, it’s really a festival, it’s not a competition. There’s music, and really just people having FUN, trying to raise money to help all of us who have MS. It’s a party!”
Eddy serves as co-chair on the MuckFest MS committee and the Board of Trustees for the Greater New England MS Society Chapter. Thank you for all you do, Eddy!
Guest post written by Erin R., a Boston Mucker.
Michael and I have been mucking together for years! We have participated in the past 4 years of MuckFest MS® events in Boston. All of that mucking love was just one of the things that brought us close together and contributed to our engagement late in 2017! As avid Muckers, Michael and I knew that we had to think about MuckFest MS when we were considering our wedding date! After getting engaged, we emailed to see if a date had been set for the 2018 MuckFest MS Boston. We waited for the date to be set before setting our wedding date. While we were disappointed to figure out that a wedding could not be hosted at the event itself 😉, we decided to incorporate MuckFest MS as much as we could in our wedding planning.
We will be getting married in early May this year and taking the plunge into the muck as newlyweds just two short weeks later! We have decided to have a donation jar at our wedding in lieu of wedding gifts. Puck the Muck Duck will be making his presence known at our celebration as he will be incorporated in many ways into the décor of our backyard event! We have even added crazy incentives such as Michael taking a polar plunge into the river the morning after the wedding if he reaches his fundraising goal! And instead of a honeymoon we will be taking our Mucky-moon by wearing just married costumes through the 5k muddy course!
All this fun and frivolity aside, MuckFest MS really means a lot to both of us. Both my father and my maternal grandmother have Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a disease that is both hard to diagnose and unpredictable. It impacts each patient in different ways. Seeing the ways that it impacted the lives of my loved ones inspired me to become involved with the National MS Society. After several years of fundraising for walks, I discovered MuckFest MS! These events truly change lives. The network that the National MS Society has created of people working together to fight MS is truly remarkable. There is a spirit of teamwork and good will that is present at the events that is unrivaled by other types of events. The work and research done by the funds raised by the National MS Society can change and improve the lives of MS patients.