2013 Mt. Washington summit group photoBuilding on the great success of 2013, our next goal is 14 in ’14. Hikes in 14 states in 2014. And for that, we need help.

Are you an outgoing, outdoorsy organizer? Do you want to help alleviate suffering in the world caused by mental illness and promote the enjoyment and responsible use of wilderness trails?

If so, maybe you would you like to organize a fundraising hike or walk for HIKE for Mental Health?

Our success and growth is fueled by responsible, organized hike champions willing to plan and lead hikes. The best hike leaders also know how to get others excited to participate.

If you are interested in learning more about organizing a HIKE for Mental Health, here is how it works.

1. Pick a hike or walk you would like to lead.

The length and difficulty level of your hike are really up to you. We find that two to five mile distances with moderate difficulty work best if you want to attract general interest. If you are planning to recruit regular or die-hard hikers, you can pick longer, harder hikes. Easier, shorter hikes or walks, even in city parks, are great for non-hiking audiences. Hike, walk, bike, or canoe for Mental Health – just about anything that a group of people can do together to enjoy the outdoors safely – is fair game.

At the top of Mt WashingtonAnother factor to consider is the appeal of the hike. Are there viewpoints or attractions along the hike? Is there a “destination” that will engage people? The best hikes are interesting enough that hikers rave about the hike afterwards and encourage others to join the following year. Vistas, lakes, waterfalls, cairns, and other unique natural or historical sites can make a nice walk into a memorable experience.

If you are in an area not blessed with such attractions, then make the hike itself the attraction. Think of a way to make it a fun event and bonding experience. We can help you with ideas.

2. Pick a date and time for your hike.

Timing of the hike is again up to you. Weekends, obviously, tend to attract more people, with Saturday being a little stronger than Sunday. Mid-morning starts seem to work well, although for longer hikes with veterans hikers much earlier starts are usually expected and welcomed.

Pick a date that is far enough in the future that you have time to organize your plan and recruit people to join the hike, and that your hikers then have enough time to sign up and do some fundraising for the hike. A minimum of 6 weeks lead time is best, although we can pull it together faster if there is a driving reason to do so.

3. Provide us with info to post the hike on our website

Sunfish-Pond-2013-hikersIn order for hikers to sign up for your hike, we will need to post it on our website. That work usually takes a few days (often over a weekend since we all have day jobs). We will need to know the plan for your hike: date, starting time, estimated finishing time, starting trail-head or meetup spot, length of the hike, name of the trail or trails, the route you plan to take, and any attractions on the hike you would like us to highlight. Photos are also really helpful, although once we know where you are hiking, we can often track down good images. For an example of the type of information that help us make an interesting posting, see the hikes on our hike schedule. Don’t worry about an actual map or elevation chart; we can usually come up with that once we understand the hiking route.

4. Promote the hike

Once we post your hike on our website, start to promote it. We will also publicize it, but the best publicity is you. Tell friends, family, co-workers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, people standing in line at the convenience store and everyone you know about it! Be enthusiastic and let them know it is for a good cause.

Direct everyone to the website for details and for registration. We will provide you with the link that you can share in email and on Facebook. Once someone clicks through your link and registers, we will reach out to them via email to help them set-up and share their personal fundraising page. You do not have to worry about any of that.

If you are comfortable with groups, you can approach local hiking clubs or service organizations. We can also draft a media release that you could send to local newspapers and other media outlets to help get the word out, if you would like.

The publicity can be a simple or as involved as you want it to be. Facebook sharing and word-of-mouth can be enough if you really talk it up with dozens and dozens of different people over a period of weeks. The important thing is to get the word out so others will know about and sign up for your hike.

5. You do not need to ask for or collect money.

Registering for our hikes is free, and all the donations we receive from hikers’ sponsors are handled through our website. You will be able to see real-time on your hike information page how much your hike is raising, but you do not have to collect any money yourself.

 6. Lead the hike.

Hiking the Kakiat LoopAbout a week before the hike, we will email a reminder with details on starting time and place to all registered hikers. You should plan to be at the meeting spot about 30 minutes earlier than the published time. Wear the HIKE for Mental Health shirt that we will send you so people can easily identify you as the hike organizer. Welcome and thank people as they arrive.

Any of your registered hikers who raise $100 or more will receive a HIKE for Mental Health shirt as a token of our appreciation as well. We will mail the shirts to you so you can hand them out at the beginning of the hike.

Start the hike! We can provide you with some guidelines and tips if you have not directed a hike before on how to make sure it is a safe and fun time for everyone.

7. Have fun and take lots of pictures

Enjoy the hike. After all, that’s why we all get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to take a walk in the woods in the first place.

Take lots of pictures so we can share the experience with others later on. Views and vistas are nice but the best pictures include your hikers. Usually there are plenty of folks with camera phones or cameras on the hike, so encourage them to help you and to send you their photos after the hike.

A note about safety

For safety reasons, we pay for and ask all hike directors to sign off on a criminal background check. We wish we didn’t have to do it, but out of an abundance of caution, we believe it is an appropriate measure to take. We hope you understand and appreciate the reasons for it. If you have any concerns, please do talk with us about it.

You can make a difference

HIKE for Mental Health is an all-volunteer organization. People like you are what make the organization go. By signing on to organize a hike, you will help to:

  • Bring Hike for Mental Health to the next level
  • Eliminate the stigma of mental illness, one hike at a time
  • Fund cutting-edge research into the underlying causes of and treatments for mental illnesses that afflict 1 in 4 American families, maybe yours or someone’s you know.
  • Create a great experience for others – and for yourself.

A good hike can even become an annual event, which will give you the pleasure of watching it grow each year, knowing you are the reason it is happening. The first Mt Washington hike was started by someone just like you and had a dozen hikers. Last year we had more than thirty. In 2014, we expect eighty or more!

Together we can make a difference. If you want to be a part of the solution and part of the fun, contact us. We would be thrilled to talk about ideas for a great new HIKE for Mental Health near you.