Faith in ActionMagazine

An amazing race in Buffalo, N.Y.

For new fundraiser ideas to help its mission, The Salvation Army in Buffalo, N.Y., got some inspiration from the Midwest.

“In Minnesota, the Minneapolis Corps offered a day of events that included a competition like the show ‘The Amazing Race,’” says Laurie Krajna, development director at The Salvation Army Buffalo Area Services, WNY Region. “Some members of the Empire Division went to shadow the event in Minneapolis. We saw what they did and what we might have to change if we brought it to our own communities.”

In 2016, “Buffalo’s Most Amazing Race” made its debut at the Buffalo, N.Y., Corps. To participate, teams raise money from their friends and family, and the team that completes the challenges first and crosses the finish line receives a cash prize. The teams that raise the highest amounts are also given prizes, such as tickets to a Buffalo Bills football or a Buffalo Sabers hockey home game.


Choose your challenge

“Buffalo’s Most Amazing Race” resembles “The Amazing Race,” the long­–running TV reality competition where teams of two people travel the world and complete challenges, engage with the locals, and learn about their history, customs, and traditions.

In Buffalo’s race, the teams must complete a mix of physical challenges that include dance routines or rock wall climbing. Other activities teach the history and work of The Salvation Army. For example, a team might learn about the Army’s WW1 “Donut Girls,” women who made donuts for soldiers on the battlefield. When the team members have memorized the facts, they will need to eat powdered donut holes and whistle before moving on to the next event.

Another event requires that a team wear hard hats and thick leather gloves to assemble a birdhouse from a kit donated by the local Home Depot hardware store. The finished birdhouses go to the Buffalo Corps’ summer camp program where children paint and decorate them.

A similar ministry challenge teaches participants how to properly prepare a grocery bag full of  food bank donations. The bag stuffers must follow approved charts and rules that meet the needs of the families. Krajna says that this is just one of the events that will help the Army’s mission in the long run.

“Next time the contestants have a food drive at their company, they will think about The Salvation Army and remember what food went into the bags they prepared. Maybe they’ll see that the expired cream corn in their pantry isn’t the best donation, and that families always need protein–rich foods,” says Krajna.

“One of the newer challenges involves visiting a local Hofbräu (German food and beer restaurant),” says Krajna.  “Of course, there’s no alcohol involved in the challenge, but the contestants go to the Hofbräu, fill up steins with water, and try to carry them to a bucket to fill it up. If they spill a stein, they have to start over.”

Krajna says that business managers are happy to provide staff volunteers and open early to be part of “Buffalo’s Most Amazing Race.” The event attracts people who may not have heard of these businesses; company logos appear all over the event advertising. “Being part of the Race is a huge boon to local Buffalo businesses,” says Krajna.

A new audience

Krajna says that the Buffalo Corps did their version of “The Amazing Race” to engage a younger audience and to show them how they can help The Salvation Army.

For instance, team members share their testimony and explain why they participate. Many of them are couples or friends who are excited to work together for a cause like The Salvation Army. Others were told by relatives how the Army had helped them in their time of need.

“We recently learned that the average donor to our corps is 84. These are the people who used our services 50 or 60 years ago. The average 30–year–old millennial may not know much about us,” says Krajna. “But a day of activities like this engages that age group and challenges them to learn about our mission. Then, we can reach out to them when we do toy collecting or need volunteers during Christmas.”

“Every corps has a gala, a dinner or a golf tournament for a fundraiser. We wanted to do something different for Buffalo,” says Krajna. “This shows that we’re an exciting organization, engaging the community in ways that they would never expect.”

by Hugo Bravo