From street to screen: How one proud partner took its annual fundraising event virtual, to support patients during COVID-19

Image of Run for Calgary's live virtual event on zoom with some of the participants and members
Runners, walkers, financial donors and organizers participate in Run for Calgary’s live virtual event on Sept. 27, 2020. The online event celebrated all participants’ awareness-building and fundraising contributions in support of Canada’s Lifeline, with prizes awarded to the top runners.   

In September 2019, Calgary’s Eau Claire Market was brimming with Canadian Blood Services supporters, all chatting, stretching and jogging in place in the crisp air before taking their marks behind the starting line for the annual Run for Calgary event.

This past September, the Eau Claire waterfront pavilion was significantly quieter during the same race weekend. That’s because the 2020 Run for Calgary — like many other charity events this year — had to go virtual for the first time ever, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2009, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) has been organizing this popular charity run/walk event through its Calgary chapter, to help raise awareness of and support for various local charities and causes.

The large Muslim youth group has more than 90 local chapters across Canada and has partnered with and supported Canadian Blood Services for many years through blood drives and swabbing events.

In 2019, the AMYA chose to increase their impact by directing all proceeds received through Run for Calgary registration fees, sponsorships and an online fundraising campaign to Canadian Blood Services.

Following the success of last year’s efforts, organizers again wanted to fundraise to help support Canada’s Lifeline in 2020, but the ongoing pandemic meant they had to get creative with the event’s long-standing format, moving it from the streets to participants’ screens.

Throughout the summer, Run for Calgary organizers encouraged supporters from all parts of the country to sign up for a 10K run, 5K run, 3K walk or the new 10K cycling event. A portion of the proceeds from all registration fees were directed toward supporting Canadian Blood Services and the patients we serve.  

Participants were then asked to complete the distances for which they had registered at their own convenience, between Aug. 1 and Sept. 26, tracking their times through a downloadable app and submitting their results.

Runners, walkers and cyclists were also given the opportunity to increase their impact by making a financial gift in support of Canadian Blood Services and asking their friends and family members to do the same. Anyone who didn’t sign up to race could still participate by making a charitable donation through Run for Calgary’s fundraising page.

On Sept. 27, 2020, a live virtual event celebrated participants’ contributions and successes and awarded prizes to the top runners.

Event co-organizer Qamar Ahmad said that although the pandemic certainly posed new challenges, the online format of the 2020 event meant that people from anywhere across the country could participate, not just those in Calgary.

“COVID-19 has not limited our efforts — rather, it has enhanced focus on serving communities across Canada,” he said.

"The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is so proud of the inaugural Virtual Run for Calgary. In these unprecedented times, we are blessed to have the opportunity to continue giving and keeping this annual event going. Our donors and fundraisers provided great support."

Want to learn more about how proud partners like the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at, Toyota Canada, CIBC and others complemented their blood drives, swabbing events and other efforts last year through charitable donations and fundraising?

Read our just-released 2019–2020 annual report to financial donors for more stories about how financial gifts help save lives.