Birth of the Brain Tumour Walk

Secret to Walk success revealed!

It’s here! Walk-mania has converged onBrain Tumour Foundation headquarters. It’s that time of year again when energy is high, hope is bountiful and feet hit the ground running around here.  

 For months, staff and volunteer committees have been busy preparing for what has become the largest fundraising event program for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. It started as an $8,000 fundraiser in 1994 to now raising over $1.2 million to fund support programs, handbooks and research for the brain tumour community.  

 “We are extremely proud of the staff and volunteers who through the years have made this fundraiser as successful as it is today,” says Steve and Melodie Northey, co-founders of the organization.   

It was a spring day 25 years ago when participants took the first steps through Springbank and Greenway parks in London, ON., towards a better future for brain tumour patients and their families. The first two walks were actually runs sponsored by Reebok and the Running Room, which had their members run 10 kilometres for the brain tumour cause in six cities.  

 As years passed, other Walk locations were added, such as Kitchener, Sarnia, Toronto, and other provinces joined in with the help of families of brain tumour patients. The Walk continued to evolve into what was, until a few years ago, known as the annual Spring Sprint.  

 “Our Northey family has participated in most of the London events and some other locations, many since babies and we just concentrate on making each event and memorable, enjoying the comeradery of the other families joining together in a common cause – to raise money for research, education, and support in our goal to find a cure for brain tumours.” 

 Today, the event has been re-branded as the Brain Tumour Walk with more than 20 events across Canada each spring.  

The Walk was born to fill the ongoing need to support the growing foundation and to continue providing its community with invaluable information and research. Prior to the first Walk, the foundation held a Ride for Research — a horseback ride in Woodbridge, ON just north of Toronto, hosted by the Grecco family whose son Joey had a brain tumour. Then they had a bicycle Ride for Research from Queen’s Park, in Toronto to the University of Western Ontario, sponsored by our nephew Jeff Putherbough and the Western Cycling Club.  

 “We do remember that day of crazy weather, rain, sleet, snow until reaching UWO in the late afternoon,” the Northey’s recall. “There have been many dates of cold, windy, sometimes sleet or snow, but the  it never dampened the enthusiasm of our participants or the importance of the cause.” 

 Weather is just one challenge associated with holding an outdoor Walk. The concept of a walk may seem like an easy fundraiser to organize, but think again. Perhaps 25 years ago it wasn`t as elaborate, but the competition is fierce now with walk fundraisers for many different diseases and causes. You have to make your cause stand out and your walk. Food, entertainment, T-shirts and media promotion are just some of the elements involved beyond finding the right walking path.  

 “The unique thing about our Brain Tumour Walk events is that they are more than a fundraiser. They bring people together and create a positive experience for everyone. People come back because of the experience we create for them,” says Suzanne Fratschko-Elliott, Fundraising and Engagement Manager for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. 

 So how do we do it?  

 In an article for IBTA Magazine, we shared the Top 10 Tips For A Successful Walk. Here is a summary of what makes our Brain Tumour Walk program a success. 

  1. Talk to everybody – It’s about relationships. 

  2. Focus on the goal – Make them realistic and come back to them. 

  3. Use social media – Keep everyone in the loop using Facebook groups. 

  4. Be diverse – Have an organizaing team with diverse backgrounds and experience.  

  5. Listen to stories – Recognize everyone has a story to share. 

  6. Have some fun – Have entertainment for families. 

  7. Communicate the impact – Show supporters how they are making a difference.  

  8. Make it local – Get your community involved. 

  9. Divide and conquer – Divide up tasks, don’t do it alone. 

  10. Always evolve – Act on feedback you receive. 



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