Friday, March 15, 2013

Hints to start an awareness event

May is Lyme Disease Awareness month. There are all sorts of events happening everywhere, with discussions buzzing on the Internet including on Facebook. I'm still busy arranging the Brampton Lyme Disease Awareness day and have had several emails from people who wanted to arrange something in their area but didn't know where to start. 

I didn't have a clue when I started planning in Nov. 2011 -- only that I had an idea to arrange something in a city park in May 2012, and then started asking permission. It was utterly amazing to find how many people offered help, support, ideas, suggestions and to be on hand on the day itself.

This year, it is going great with lots of exciting events happening to raise awareness about this disease.

My first hint: Do NOT try to do everything yourself! Talk to friends and if they offer help, ask them what they would like to do or what their idea is. Let them run with it. We Lymies have to conserve our energy and our friends love to be able to do something to help us. 

So, here are some ideas for those who want to raise awareness about this very fast spreading disease. You might have some suggestions of your own to add to the Comments below, or perhaps one of these ideas sparks another idea for you! Start small. Together, we grow, and every little bit of awareness helps with the groundswell. 

I'm just writing as ideas occur to me; these are by no means the last word as far as awareness goes. You'll probably find many more around the Net. 
  • SIGNATURES: Collect signatures for the petition to ask for a National Lyme Disease Strategy in Canada. Remember to mail them in regularly. Every page or two that you fill, should be sent off to Ottawa immediately. It is free after all, so carry a few envelopes along with the petition. 
  • If you're housebound, get some bright green ribbon, hot glue or small copper safety pins and create awareness ribbons. Ask friends and family to wear them. Pin one to your dog's leash or collar. If you're part of a community group, challenge them to "go green" and to get as many members as possible to wear green ribbons during the month of May.
  • GREEN EVERYWHERE: If you are mobile, hang green ribbons everywhere you can. On your trees or balcony, on a friend's trees or yard, on your car's aerial, on your mailbox --- ask permission to hang them on a community park or wherever you have connections and supportive friends. 
  • VIDEO EVENING: If you have a (licensed) venue, arrange for a screening of the award-winning documentary about Lyme Disease, called Under our Skin. Copies are available from the LDAO and if you click on this link, they get a percentage of the purchase price. 
  • COMMUNITY TABLE or HOME EVENT: Ask permission at a street market or anywhere your community has a group of vendors or volunteer groups together. Hand out brochures to anyone who stops by your table.
    Brochures are available from the LDAO, or CanLyme or the Murakami centre. You can also download and print your own from their sites if you are just getting a few people together in your home to listen to your story. 
  • LIBRARY: Maybe your local library will allow you to set up a table with some of the books about Lyme disease. If they don't have them on their shelves, they could order them from another library. Talk to people who are browsing books and let them know the disease is out there. 
  • OVAL ROUNDS: If you have access to a track with or without bleachers in your town, perhaps you can get a few friends together and arrange for a sponsored walk to raise awareness. People can get their friends to pledge an amount for each round completed. Money can be donated to a Lyme Disease Charity of your choice, or divided so that different Lyme charities benefit. 
  • GARAGE SALE: As spring cleaning approaches in the Northern hemisphere, get a few friends together to clear out their closets for a rummage sale, and the guys for a garage sale. Get some brochures together (see the point under Community Table above) and hand them out while people are browsing. If you set up some posters with common Lyme Myths, it will start the conversation when they ask questions. I've made T-shirts with "Ask Me About Lyme Disease" on the front -- if you need some, I could order you some and we can sort out delivery and postage, etc. 
  • LYME GREEN THUMB FUNDRAISER :-)  [This one came from Janet S] People could either buy a pack of seeds and grow them in peat pots or dig up extra perennials in their yards (if they have established back yards) and have a table at the May walk. People could take a plant and make a donation. I give credit to my friend Marianne Middleveen for using the word 'Lyme green thumb' which made me remember that Rob Manten provided extra perennials to some Lymies a few years back. I hope the idea appeals to you :-)
  • RAFFLE: Remember that you need a raffle license! Lots of paperwork, lots of hoops to jump through. Before you start planning something, check with your local municipality about what is needed before you find yourself in a heap of trouble. You have to satisfy local and provincial laws, as well as maybe wider laws as well. 
  • SILENT AUCTION: There are many ways of doing a silent auction. One of the most important things is to think about how you are going to have people bid, and how they are going to pay. If you only accept cash, that's find, but people would be limited as to how much they bid. If you take credit cards, you would need a mobile machine or computer application and a 3G or network connection, plus laptop or iPad. For people to bid: Do you want them to register their information first and get a number to bid with, or do they only use their phone number as a bidding number? Talk to people in your area who have done those and lean on their knowledge. You would need to create bid sheets, think about minimum bids and bid increments, when to close the bidding, how to get better bids, and more. Someone must be arranged to deal with payments, checkouts and someone to hand over the items that people paid for. You also need an official letter to ask for donations of items. I'm sure there will be specifics online if you do a search for something more you need to know. 
  • T-SHIRTS: Make and wear your own T-shirts, depending on what you feel comfortable with doing. Hobby stores like Michael's have T-shirts on special every so often, and they have all sorts of paper that you can print and iron-on. Or if you are artsy, go crazy with fabric paint, especially the kind that forms a raised line. Add glitter or buttons, ribbons and other things to make it your own. People have taken my T-shirts literally off my back so I always have an extra one somewhere in a bag. The one below was worn yesterday again in a Tim Hortons and several people came over to do just that: Ask me about Lyme Disease. We had an unplanned mini-awareness day in the middle of Timmies --- stayed there for three hours and spoke to lots of people. I always have some of my homemade business cards with the blog address in my pocket. 
  • T-shirt to encourage others to ask about Lyme disease. 
  • LYME WALK OR RUN: If you wish to organize a walk or awareness event, you would need a team of helpers, a venue, a date, some sponsors, advertising connections, T-shirts and a way for people to donate. I find the online donation the best, or then cheques made out to the charity to benefit from the walk. 
  • ADVERTISING: Make sure you check with your local newspaper, library, community notice boards and more for free advertising of your event. And don't forget about Kijiji! Amazing tool to use - I post there all the time. 
  • POSTERS: Place posters or notices on boards around your area and ask friends to do the same. Hint - smaller ones have a better chance to be posted, rather than an expensive 11x17 size. 
  • Hope some of these would help you planning an event during May 2013! I would love to read some comments from you, either posted below or shared via email. 
Please post a comment below if you are planning an event anywhere in Canada. I'm trying to add them all to a Facebook page, as well as elsewhere on forums, for more people to get the news and to take part in some way. 

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