The Right Path for Washington County hosted our first annual Righditarod, our race against hunger, Saturday March 5. Held on the official kick-off of the Alaskan Iditarod, participants, with costumes and carts decorated according to their themes, raced through downtown Marietta with shopping carts instead of dog sleds. The mother lode of community service projects, this event was geared toward stocking the shelves and filling the coffers of our community food pantries at a time of the year when they are experiencing a let down after the Christmas holiday rush. Thanks to Food 4 Less and Bucky Lee for loaning us bright yellow carts and Ben Cogswell, of Apex True Value, for delivering them to the Lafayette Parking lot for decorating and returning them to Bucky at the end of the day.
Several months of planning and lots of monkey wrenches thrown in at the last minute didn't discourage our 12 teams of 5 racers each, even when the sky opened up and soaked everyone. Some of our very creative teams went with the weather, decorating their cart as a boat, hanging fish from the sides and wearing bright yellow ponchos. Pink Cadillac and armored tank carts were wet, and the Justin Beiber team saw better days, but all 12 teams made it to the finish line.
This event showcased a truly wonderful mix of community partners; several of our teams were youth service clubs: the SADD group and National Honor Society from Marietta High School, Belpre High School Teen Institute, the St. Mark's United Methodist Church youth group and Fort Frye High School's Cadets for a Cause. In addition, at our challenge points, teams could rack up points for participating in some silly antics such as lip-syncing, eating Tim Bits, spinning for dollars, being smarter than a sixth-grader or taking a glamour photo. Boy Scout Troop 207, Marietta Middle School Builder's Club and the Belpre Elementary Right Choice Club, with some assistance from the RSVP volunteers at the O'Neill Center, served as judges.
Teams were encouraged to get monetary donations and received additional points when they registered. Dominion Gas and Marietta Community Foundation led the charge with a $10,000 donation, and our grand total was $12,333. This will be dispersed through the food pantries' accounts at the Marietta Community Foundation. In addition, several community members attended our end of the day award ceremony at the Hotel Lafayette and donated to the cause. Kiwanis sent a $200 donation; Wendy's donated products from Dr. Pepper and Mott's applesauce, and Broughton Food donated water.
This was truly a community event and we couldn't have done it without the involvement and cooperation of everyone. Clear Channel Radio and Greg, Doug, Chuck and Rodney helped us with our radio spots and a live remote from the Lafayette Hotel parking lot. John was our emcee at the award ceremony and Ohio Valley Media, WMOA, The Marietta Times, WTAP and The Anchor promoted our event and kept us in the spotlight. The Belpre Area and Marietta Area Chambers of Commerce helped us promote our event and the Belpre Chamber supported a team. Discount Signs and Awnings supplied our banners and fliers for the event.
Our Challenge Point sponsors and our Right Path board members who organized the judges and kept things running smoothly deserve a big pat on the back. The Lafayette and Donna McKnight cannot be thanked adequately for providing the venue, concessions and planning assistance. Much gratitude goes to Miriam, Lynn, Darlene and Dave, who manned the sign-in table, tallied points and kept everything organized. Many thanks also to Wendy's - Ray, Kelly, Team Wendy's and their sponsors - for our Spin-It-To-Win-It challenge and to Joellen, who organized the station. In addition, we owe a big thanks to Tim Horton's - Kathy, Boy Scout Troop 207, Roger and Stephanie (who watched the Tim Bits eating challenge), Roger of Roger's Imaging for organizing the glam shots with his middle school judges and Bill and Sharon. The photos were given to the teams on CDs and our winning team received an 8 x 10 photo. The O'Neill Center and RSVP teamed up with Belpre Elementary sixth grade Right Choice Club and their advisors, Karen and Carl, to see if anyone was "Smarter than a Sixth Grader." Marietta Middle School Builders Club and advisor Mark watched the teams lip-sync (with the exception of Titus Canbe, who sang for their supper) their way through the challenge at Found Antiques in Historic Harmar Village.
The Faculty performed at our awards ceremony immediately following the race, where small prizes were given to the "winners." Thanks to the Lafayette for supplying concessions and setting everything up for us. Thanks to Dave and Larry from Newport Pantry for all our photographs and the Selby Tobacco Prevention Project for supplying the cameras. We will have some wonderful pictures to share on Facebook!
Special thanks to the city of Marietta - the police and fire department, the streets department, the mayor's office - as well as the tourist and convention bureau, downtown merchants, the city of Belpre, our food pantries, Mary Lou Moegling, Karen and Kim for organizing Mini-Righditarods at their elementary schools (Washington Elementary, Belpre Elementary and Putnam Elementary), Marietta College intern Mark, Belpre Mayor Lorentz and Juvenile Court Judge Williams for serving as crossing guards, Carol and Heather of the Marietta Community Foundation for securing our donation, Washington County Mental health and Addiction Recovery Board and United Way for all their support.
A very special thanks goes to Suzanne Schindler, the events manager for the Cincinnati City Development Corporation. She has been instrumental in organizing the Cincinnati Urban Iditarod and was gracious in sharing all of her detailed organizational information with us.
Our partnering teams made the event a huge success and I want to thank them and invite them to join us next year for Righditarod 2012. The participating teams were: Cadets for a Cause, River Rangers, First Church Island Hoppers, Team Wendy's, Pink Ladies, Pampered Chef, Toy Soldiers, Titus Canbe, Spaghetti and Meat Dawgs, Belpre High School Teen Institute, St. Mark's March Madness and Marietta High School. You helped ensure the success of Righditarod 2011. What a wonderful way to engage our youth, support our pantries and create an extended community partnership!
Cathy Harper is coordinator for The Right Path for Washington County.