October 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Strength Runs in Families

A day-long event in Ashtabula County, Ohio, showcases groups and organizations in the county that help to strengthen families, provide educational programs in the area of strengthening families, and encourage families to do things together. In an attempt to increase the participation by men and teenagers and to increase awareness of family strengths, the planning coalition added a "fun run" as an annual activity. The overall event increased in attendance, with a notable increase in male and teenage participation. The 10th annual Family-A-Fair and fifth Family Fun Run are scheduled for May 1995.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse
County Extension Agent
Ohio State University Extension
Ashtabula County
Jefferson, Ohio
Internet address: asht@agvax2.ag.ohio-state.edu

Nineteen ninety-three marked the eighth year that a coalition of agencies in Ashtabula County, Ohio conducted Family- A-Fair. This day-long program: (a) showcases what groups and organizations in the county do to help strengthen families, (b) provides educational programs in the area of strengthening families, and (c) encourages families to do things together. Extension provides the organizational leadership for the Family- A-Fair Coalition. The event draws a large attendance each year and is an anticipated spring activity that local organizations and businesses plan for and include in their promotion budgets.

In 1990, the coalition, concerned about the future of this event and the limited participation at that time, identified two goals for the future. The first goal was to encourage more men and teenagers to participate in a family related event. The second goal was to increase awareness of family strengths and encourage people to think about their family and the importance of family throughout the year and not just on Family-A-Fair day.

To meet both goals, a new activity was added to the annual Family-A-Fair: a Family Fun Run and Walk. Members of the Family-A-Fair Coalition and volunteers from the athletic community formed a planning committee with the goal to make this event appealing and inexpensive. The Family Fun Run and Walk had categories for participants of all ages and families were encouraged to participate together. Registration fees were kept to a minimum and family rates were available. This provided the opportunity for local businesses to contribute and the major sponsor was the local natural gas company. Fast-food restaurants and businesses provided refreshments, and a local radio station agreed to broadcast live from the event. The one-mile route was marked out, permits were obtained, police secured to close the road where the race was to be held, and ambulances and paramedics were asked to be on hand for emergencies. A release of liability form was developed and signed by each participant and/or parent of participants.

The first year of the race, 120 people participated, ranging in age from five to 70. This included 40 family groups, 50 men, and 25 teenagers. Those who couldn't run were encouraged to walk an alternate route. As is customary at races, participants received an official race t-shirt with the logo and theme: "Strength Runs in Families." This provided the awareness vehicle we desired because every time participants wear this t-shirt, they are promoting the importance of families.

In 1993 the race drew over 230 participants, including 50 families. Attendance at Family-A-Fair was estimated at 2,000. In 1994, there were 3,000 people in attendance at the event and more than 250 racers.

The race has achieved many positive outcomes--some anticipated and others inadvertent. The Family-A-Fair event has increased overall attendance, with a notable increase in male and teenage participation. The budget and ability to promote the event have grown with the addition of corporate sponsors, and in 1994 received one of the DeWitt/Wallace Youth-at-Risk Awards. Most importantly, the family message is seen throughout the year on "walking billboards" in the form of t-shirts worn by past participants. An added bonus is that physical activity and healthy family fun are encouraged. Everyone is a winner in this race!