Sunday, May 15, 2011

Karting for a Cause

 On Saturday, May 14, 2011, Camp Anokijig held the first Anokijig 100 Go-Kart Enduro fundraising event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  While Anokijig has held many different fundraising events in the past, this one was a little bit different.  The biggest difference was that this event was the first major fundraiser organized without the assistance of Anokijig's staff.  This is significant, because Camp Anokijig hosted an Indian Guide group at Anokijig the same weekend this event took place.  It is very difficult to be in two places at once and there are enough demands on our full-time staff, just making sure Anokijig runs as it should.  While Anokijig needs to fundraise, we cannot afford to do so at the expense of the quality of our regular programs.  This event allowed our staff to do their regular jobs of providing an outstanding camping experience for our guests from the Indian Guides. 

As with many of Anokijig's activities, this event could not have happened without the dedicated support of our many wonderful volunteers.  These people are responsible for more than 40,000 hours worth of work at Anokijig each year and while the Anokijig staff focused their efforts on Anokijig's operations, it was our volunteers who stepped forward to organize and run this event and we thank them for all of their hard work.

Just as this event would not have been possible without our volunteers, it also would not have been possible without our many generous sponsors and donors.  Donors include Anonymous, Steve Cottingham, Al Petkus, & Tom Vickers.  Sponsors include Bode Financial Group Ltd, KS Energy Services, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc., Twin Disc and a special thank you to the Elkhart Inn for providing us with our wonderful dinner for the evening.  The support of all these wonderful donors and sponsors, as well as that of our participants made it possible for this event to raise more than $10,000, which we think is pretty good for a first-time effort.

The existence of this event may come as a surprise to many of our supporters and that was by design.  Since this was a new fundraising event, we didn't want it's success to come at the expense of our other existing events.  We also know even our strongest supporters can only give so much of their time, treasure and talent. While there were a few familiar Anokijig faces in this crowd, many of the participants were relative newcomers to all things Anokijig.  This event was a tremendous opportunity for us to introduce Anokijig to a new audience and help further spread the word about all the great things we are doing for children and families.

Finally, is there a specific focus for this fundraising effort?  Yes.  While many of our fundraising efforts help fund camperships for deserving children, this event had a different purpose.  When the Friends of Camp Anokijig acquired Anokijig in 2005, they did so with loans from a bank and a very generous foundation.  While it seemed like a monumental task at the time, getting the loans and buying Anokijig was the easy part.  The real challenge comes in paying the loans off and we're making good headway.  As we enter into our sixth summer camping season as an independent, non-profit camp, we have paid off approximately $1.5 million of the $5.5 million purchase price.

That is quite an accomplishment and we've depended on the generosity of some wonderful people to make the kind of progress we have.  When we first started fundraising to eliminate our debt, experts warned us "debt reduction" is not a popular fundraising cause and they were right.  In spite of that challenge, we have received some tremendous support from very generous people.  Up until now, we have not come up with a way to properly and permanently recognize the people, groups and organizations, who have kept Anokijig going strong, including donors, volunteers and staff.  We'd like to do something about that and we're hoping the proceeds from this event (and future go-kart events) will help us in that regard.  Is "permanent supporter recognition" as an unpopular fundraising cause, like "debt reduction?"  We hope that is not the case and so far it doesn't seem to be.

This rendering has been created to help stimulate ideas, conversation and support for how we might go about permanently recognizing our wonderful supporters.  In this concept, the steps leading up to Western Lodge from the main parking lots have been re-built.  The uneven steps have been replaced with even steps and arrowheads featuring the names of donors have been placed in random patterns amongst aggregate stone work.  In addition, a similarly-designed wheelchair-accessible ramp has also been added, to make it easier for those with special needs to access Western Lodge.  These two pathways to Western Lodge surround a five-foot tall stone Anokijig Arrowhead monument, featuring a raised CA interlocked logo on the front and the names of Anokijig's supporters engraved on the back.

Repairing and replacing the stairways leading up to Western Lodge is on our long wish list of things to do at Anokijig and this concept would allow us to improve Anokijig's physical condition, while also providing us with the permanent means to recognize supporters, which we currently lack.  Special care has been taken to ensure this concept is in keeping with Anokijig's rustic setting.  Interlocking paving bricks are a proven concept and perhaps more cost-effective, but they really wouldn't look right at Anokijig. 

As we mentioned before, this rendering is simply a beginning and the money raised at this karting event is only a start.  Our hope is that someone might look at this idea and build on it, modify it or enhance it in some way that will allow us to move forward toward our goal.  If this particular concept or the idea of a way for us to permanently recognize the supporters who have made Anokijig what it is today interests you, contact Mary Krahn and ask her how you can get involved.