Major renovations to Westdale Mall have forced out more than just stores. Non-profit organizations that utilized the indoor space for their annual fundraising walks have had to come up with a plan B.
This includes the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Movin’ for McCauley and Autism Walks.
The JDRF has about 4,000 people at their annual walk. Without Westdale, they couldn’t find an indoor venue to hold that many people, so they are moving it outside, The walk will now start at NewBo Market and loop through Czech Village. Moving the event outside meant they had to change the date of their walk, traditionally held in February. This year it will be held Saturday, May 10.
For the first time ever, organizers have to keep a close eye on the weather, coordinate road closures, and rent tents for the event.
Some of the logistics have come with added costs. Westdale always offered their space for free to non-profits, but organizers are optimistic the changes won’t impact attendance and that they will still meet their $530,000 fundraising goal, making the extra planning worth the work.
It’s been fun, exciting, and new. I think after 16 years people are excited to have a new place and a new experience, said AnnElise Walsh, Executive Director of JDRF.
JDRF leaders say that if all goes well, they hope to keep their event outside next year. The JDRF walk starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, and participants can register for the race starting at 8.a.m.
Other fundraising walks impacted by Westdale construction include The Autism Walk, which was canceled this year. Organizers say they are working to revamp and reschedule their event.
We also spoke with the Catherine McAuley Center, who moved their walk outside to Lowe Park this year. With the new venue, they added a race to their walk. They say the change led to an increase in new participants but said that overall attendance was down by about 100 people. They still plan to keep it there next year and hope for growing attendance.