Alene Mestjian, Cortney Chatoian and Megan Starr show their medals for the Running for Ronald 5k. This year, they made the event virtual. Photo contributed

published on November 10, 2020 - 2:54 PM
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For the Ronald McDonald House in Madera, the start of the pandemic was a time of great uncertainty — one that required quick thinking from its staff to support the families who relied on them to be with their families at Valley Children’s Hospital.

It was a time that required not only a shift in the way operations were run for the House, but also how to raise the money needed to keep the lights on and parents close by. According to Alene Mestjian, director of development and communications for the House’s Central Valley chapter, this has resulted in a total pivot to fundraising online. It’s a tactic being embraced by nonprofits across the country.

“We had to cancel major fundraiser including our Sporting Clays Classic and the Red Heart Ball,” Mestjian said. “So what we’re doing is shifting to virtual events and online fundraising so that we can continue to support the families we serve.”

They held their first fundraiser event — a virtual wine tasting — in July. To make this work, the House sent bottles courtesy of DAOU Vineyards in Paso Robles to their participants. They then did their tastings from the safety and comfort of their own homes.

“The wonderful team that we have made that transition easy,” Mestjian said. “However, the need to fundraise is still there and we need to figure out ways to be creative and innovative in serving families.”

According to Mestjian, the tasting was a major success, and since then, they’ve been testing the limits of what they can accomplish with a Zoom call. In November alone, they’ve planned a virtual open house and an online 5K run.

On Nov. 1, the Ronald McDonald House held its first Running for Ronald fundraiser, with the invitation of the community to run, walk, bike and swim in their homes, neighborhoods and parks while keeping track of their distance. They will also be broadcasting tours of the house on Facebook and YouTube to show their patrons where their money is being spent.

Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Association in Fresno has also successfully shifted to online fundraising. Initially, they took a step back from fundraising to focus on their sponsors and families. But the pandemic didn’t mitigate the need to earn money for their cause, and they got to work when the time was right.

So far, they’ve brought their virtual earnings to $101,650, including their 11th annual and first virtual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, according to walk coordinator Michelle Larson.

“Our organization really took a big step back to really think about how we wanted to move forward,” Larson recalled. “And they were very thoughtful in the steps we were going to take and what our walk was going to look like for 2020.”

Like the upcoming Running for Ronald 5k, the Alzheimer’s Association encouraged participants to walk in the safety of their own neighborhoods to raise awareness. Wraparound events leading up to and after the walk were moved online, including a pep rally for their community and an opening ceremony.

A promise garden was also set up, which was turned into a drive-thru event (though the garden was not a fundraiser).

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