May 29, 2014
By Milo Todd
Set for Saturday, June 7, Hallmark Health System’s annual Stride for Healthy Communities walk will be celebrating its 15th year. And like any landmark done right, they’ll be kicking it up and keeping it there.
"We’re trying to bring it to a new level so that it’s branded. We’re also trying to build it up as a festival," said Denise Flynn, chief development officer of Hallmark Health System.
While having been "just" a walk in the past, Stride for Healthy Communities will now feature face painting, balloon artists, giveaways, health information, food samples courtesy of Whole Foods, a DJ, and even an event by WBZ Radio, in which children have the opportunity to record their own news stories written by WBZ Radio staff.
As far as branding is concerned, this is the year that Hallmark has set a concrete annual date for the event.
"Having worked on other big walks, it seems that the branded walks are the most successful walks," Flynn said. "They happen at the same place, same time, every year. We also have a whole new logo that we’ll be keeping now for a long time to come."
In its first year, Stride for Healthy Communities’ proceeds "almost exclusively benefitted cardiology," said Flynn, but by its 15th year, the event’s fundraising has branched out.
"We’re just trying to think, system-wide, what are some of the other services that touch a lot of people in the community that need programs and services that aren’t covered by insurance," Flynn said. "A lot of the funds have been used for CPR training in high schools and athletic departments in the north suburban areas. This year, too, some of the funds will be used to support advanced cardiac training for nurses and other staff. So a portion of the money will still go to cardiac."
Additional beneficiaries this year will be the Oncology Department of Hallmark Health Services, as well as the North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network. While this is the first time the Oncology Department is receiving money from Stride for Healthy Communities, this is the first time the Family Resource Network is receiving fundraising proceeds ever.
"We are going to use the money to raise some programs," said Kathy Harlow, program manager for the Family Resource Network. "With the past couple of years, we’ve had to cut back some. We’re really happy that we can work with Stride to get those programs back."
The Family Resource Network is for any family that has children not yet in kindergarten, Harlow explained.
"We believe that parents who are educated and supported make for healthier families and children, which we do through our center," she said.
Harlow noted while the Family Network has programs like preschool classes, they also have classes for the families.
"We recently had 50 parents come in to learn about S.T.E.M. and how they can play with their children in a way that can promote science, technology, engineering and math [S.T.E.M.]," she said.
Hallmark’s Oncology Department is equally excited to be part of this year’s Stride for Healthy Communities walk.
"The cancer program has been trying for almost six years to get this boutique completed," said Elisa Scher, system director of hematology-oncology and radiation oncology for Hallmark. "Now through Stride, I’m able to see this finally come to fruition from the donations. This gives us an opportunity to have items that patients need during their treatment, such as wigs, prostheses, and literature to help them on their journey that we don’t have access to right now."
While proceeds have been "all over the place," in the past, according to Flynn, this year Stride for Healthy Communities is "expecting a net of $40,000 to go back to the services." To make this a reality, the organization is hoping for more than its usual turnout of 300 people.
"We’re hoping that families will come out and support Hallmark Health on June 7 and join us for our walk," said Jesse Salvato, communications specialist for Hallmark. "It’s going to be a really great day, really great fun for everyone involved. We’re hoping it to be the first for many years to come."
Registration will begin at 8 a.m. at Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield. When the walk starts at 9 a.m., it will involve a scenic three miles around the lake and back again. Throughout the day, the mentioned festivities will take place.
Anyone interested in the walk can register online by visiting www.hallmarkhealth.org and selecting "Giving."