Creative thinking by CHOP’s team four years ago made it easy to nimbly switch in-person events to virtual ones.

Walk for Hope virtual participants This spring, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most in-person events hosted by organizations needed to be converted to virtual formats. While many organizations scrambled to figure out how to quickly make this shift, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) already had a well-established virtual fundraising program, making it easy to nimbly and successfully replicate the format for other events.

In 2016, CHOP launched the 31-Day Challenge as a virtual fundraising event that motivates participants to run, walk or bike 31, 62 or 100 miles throughout the month of May in support of the program of their choice at CHOP. The event’s first year drew 400 participants. This year, more than 1,650 participants logged 76,160 miles and raised more than $298,000.

In creating the 31-Day Challenge, the CHOP team realized that a virtual event would mean that anyone anywhere could join — this year, participants came from 32 states. In addition, people could tailor the event to their age and fitness level. As a way to build a sense of community among all these people scattered across the country, “We encourage participants to tune in to a fundraising webinar — a reason to get online in the same “room” — and share their stories about why CHOP is important to them and ways they’ve been successfully fundraising,” says Nick Fritz, Assistant Director of Special Events.

“I love the 31-Day Challenge because it allows me to do two of my favorite things, working out and raising awareness,” says participant Jon Nelson. “The kicker is all my friends and family can join in as well. Having an opportunity to give back a small portion of what Children's Hospital has blessed me and my family with is just outstanding.”

“Raising money for the children at CHOP is my greatest motivation,” says participant Mabel Valladares. “Running 31 miles has definitely been a challenge, but nothing can compare to the challenges that the children at CHOP face every day.”

Replicating the formula

Secure in the knowledge of how to create excitement and community utilizing the virtual framework of 31-Day Challenge, two normally in-person CHOP events pivoted to a virtual format within weeks. Walk for Hope benefits the Center for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), raising more than $1 million over the past 10 years. This event is driven by the IBD Family Research Council, a group of passionate parents and patients who advocate for innovative IBD treatment and research. What is typically a day of running, walking, dancing and giveaways became a virtual program on April 19. Hundreds of people went online for a Q&A with the IBD center’s director, a team video and a virtual warmup hosted by a CHOP social worker who is a yoga instructor. Families were then encouraged to go outside and walk in their neighborhoods while sharing photos and videos via social media. The event raised over $80,000 for IBD research.

Following this success, the inaugural Cure Sickle Cell Walk & Family Fun Day, which had been scheduled for May 30 at Lincoln Financial Field, embraced the challenge of creating a new event during a pandemic. The virtual program featured an interview with former 76ers guard and current Temple men’s basketball coach Aaron McKie, a video highlighting patients and clinicians, a discussion with Kim Smith-Whitley, MD, Director of CHOP’s Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, and more. Again, all families were encouraged to walk in their neighborhoods while going live on social media.

As these CHOP events attest, creative thinking can anticipate and successfully respond to even the most unexpected situations.

Check out our upcoming events list to see what has shifted to a virtual format!