By Sheilah Powell

Recovery month is less than two months away, and advocates all over the country are planning meaningful and impactful events to commemorate the month.  So many people want to help – but don’t know how. How would one even begin to plan an awareness day, a 5k or late summer cookout for those in recovery? Are permits required? Who pays for this?  Will the venue cost money? It can get very overwhelming!  

Here, we provide you with an easy-to-follow outline that showcases the Lehigh Valley Walk for Recovery that took place just a few months ago co-organized by Mobilizer Jordan Scott.  It all began as a mere idea in 2019 – now it is a widely successful multi-year walk.  Anyone can plan a recovery event and make a difference, and here is how one group did it in Pennsylvania.  

Jordan Scott is a recovery advocate from Pennsylvania who recently made the move south to North Carolina.  She was instrumental in executing the Recovery Walk in May 2022, along with a small cohort of hardworking recovery advocates.  

“In September of 2019, my friend Chris called me and told me about an idea that his friend Steve had,” Jordan said.  “We posted on Facebook inviting people to join the committee and had our first meeting just a couple of weeks later.”

The Lehigh Valley Walk for Recovery was started to fundraise for local grassroots nonprofits in the Lehigh Valley. It also aimed to spread awareness, address stigma, and bring the community together. They recognized that grassroots organizations were not able to access state and federal money and were often left out of contracts with their local Single County Authority (SCA). 

Held at Louise Moore Park in Eason, PA, the walk was a huge success.  

“The event this year blew my mind!” Jordan said.  “We knew that people would come but I did not expect the turnout we had. Louise Moore is a HUGE park but we have already outgrown it and are looking for an even bigger space now!”

It is truly amazing what a group of dedicated and hardworking advocates can accomplish, and this is evidenced by the success of the Lehigh Valley Walk for Recovery.  

“So much hard work had been put into this event since 2019 and I had and have so many moments of feeling like nothing is changing or getting better. but in just two years this tiny committee raised $34,000 and put $29,000 back into the community,” Jordan said.  “The Lehigh Valley is also where I started my life over and found recovery, it was where I found my community and put the pieces back together, and will always be my second home.”

Each year, specific beneficiaries are chosen to receive the proceeds of the recovery walk.  This year, they were Battle Borne, Reach LV, and Victor’s Corner and each beneficiary received about $6,000 each to put towards service, programming, and operations.  The year prior, the beneficiaries were Battle Borne, Northbound & Co., and Voices for Change.  Both years, Battle Borne, an organization with a mission to connect veterans with the resources needed to recover from mental, emotional and physical trauma, was the fiscal sponsor.  Every single year, the local community and business owners were very supportive of the walk, Jordan said.  

So how did this group of Pennsylvania recovery advocates pull this off? Here is a detailed checklist created by Jordan to get you started.

  1. Hosting Organization – Is the organization in charge a non-profit or is a fiscal sponsor needed? Most supporting businesses will require proof of non-profit status to donate.  
  2. What is the mission or goal? For a fundraising event, who are the beneficiaries and how is that determined? If it is an awareness event, who is the target audience and/or cause? 
  3. Choose an event name and create a logo.  Keep the name simple and see if there is someone in your community who is a graphic designer or artist. Reach out to local schools and colleges that have art departments. Canva is also a great app for creating logos and there is a free version! 
  4. How will you promote the event? Consider making a social media page and make sure to have someone to take care of creating posts and gaining followers. Eventbrite is an easy-to-use platform. 
  5. Does the venue require event insurance? Some government/city/county/private venues will require event insurance. If the event has a fiscal sponsor, check in with them because they most likely already have an existing policy. Event insurance is not expensive and is easy to obtain. Even if the event is being held on someone’s private property, you most likely will want to have insurance in the event that someone is injured or there is property damage.  If the event is a walk or 5k, you may need police presence to shut down roads, which will add to the event budget. Here is a tip – a lot of county and city parks have paved walking paths, so check with them first. For a bingo or raffle event, you may need to obtain a gaming permit which varies from state to state. Lastly, is the event rain or shine, and if not, what are the makeup details? 
  6. How will funds be raised? There are a ton of different donation platforms so do your research and make sure you are informed of all the different fees and which platforms are the most user-friendly. If you will be selling merchandise, determine price points and solicit quotes from vendors. If the merchandise is free, then make sure to work it into your budget.  If you are soliciting sponsors, create tiers (with dollar amounts) and determine what each tier receives for its donation. Ex: social media advertising, space on t-shirts, banner advertising, yard signs, etc.  
  7. Will you allow vendors or exhibitors? Determine what the fee is and what you will be providing or NOT providing (i.e. are you providing tables and chairs or are vendors responsible for bringing their own?) 
  8. Food vendors: make sure you know what your city/town requires for food permits. Much of this information can be found on the county/city/town website, applications included. If you are having more than one food vendor, ensure you have a variety. If your event requires a paid ticket, consider giving every attendee a food voucher. Also, make sure to be culturally sensitive to the needs of the communities being served.  
  9. BE PROACTIVE! While a lot of big corporations will contribute donations, they typically require a certain amount of notice so do not wait until the last minute!  Some corporations have a separate application process that can take substantial time to review. Be prepared and create an invoice template as some companies require that for their own records. Easy templates can be found in Google docs, Pinterest, etc. 
  10. Make sure to have a designated volunteer coordinator. No matter how much you plan, the day is going to be stressful. Having designated roles will make the day go much smoother.
  11. What else?  Form a planning committee! Any kind of event is a lot of work so a solid committee is important! How often will the committee meet? Consider creating committee roles and/or subcommittees and make sure the planning committee is representative of the community being served.  Inclusivity matters! The Google suite of products has a bevy of resources that can assist with the planning of your event!  Google Docs is a great place to find templates like sponsor registration forms, vendor registration forms, invoices, etc. Consider how you will track who has been contacted, who has signed up, and who has sent payment. liability/social media waivers! 
  12. Last but NOT least – how to PROMOTE the event! Your local networking groups and chamber of commerce can be a great place to find sponsors! Harness the power of social media – all of the platforms – to reach a diverse demographic. You can also use printed materials, radio/tv spots, or local billboards if that is in the budget.  

“I want to show people that anyone can create a positive impact in their community,” Jordan said.  “None of the committee members were expert event planners or had taken on a task like this but we put our brains together and figured it out one step at a time. By ourselves, we cannot change the world but if every person recognized their own ability to create change, imagine the ripple effect and what could be accomplished.” 

To contact the Recovery Walk organizer and Mobilizer Jordan Scott, please email jordanscotthr@gmail.com.