“The world is waiting for you. Good luck…travel safe…go!”
Fans of the CBS reality show The Amazing Race will recognize these familiar words, spoken at the start of each race as contestants embark on a 14-day race around the world. Recently, eight teams of four people participated in a scavenger hunt-adventure style race based on the CBS reality show, as part of a day-long community fundraising event at Timothy Christian School in Barrie.
Similar to the televised race, where teams go on a journey around the world, following clues and performing tasks in order to find their way to the designated Pit Stops, the eight teams competed in a series of challenges in the town of Barrie, vying for a first or second place finish which would allow them the opportunity to compete in a final challenge during the evening portion of the fundraising event.
This was the first time that Timothy Christian School has held a day-long fundraiser at their school. In the past they have held more traditional fundraising events, which included evening galas based on themes such as the Roaring Twenties and the Oscars. However, the fundraising committee decided to take a new approach this year—one that might also serve to include a potential new wave of Christian school supporters.
“We’ve held some amazing galas here in the last number over years,” shared fundraising committee member Jessica Van Loenen. “They were extravagant events that the community enjoyed together. However, the scenery of Christian school supporters is changing, and this year we wanted to do something that would bridge the gap from those who have been our faithful supporters to also include a new wave of supporters from the community.”
Ms. Van Loenen had participated in an Amazing Race-type event the previous year, and was impressed by the way that it drew community members together in a new and fun way. “I brought the idea to the fundraising committee at TCS, and they decided to just go for it!”
The race day turned out to be the first warm and sunny day of the season, for which the organizers were extremely thankful. Committee members had recruited several community business sponsors, whose names were printed on magnetic signs and displayed on the racing vehicles for the day, providing exposure and advertisement for their businesses as racers made their way throughout the community. Race participants also wore matching-coloured race t-shirts that displayed the school name and logo, with the logos of supporting businesses on the back.
The race included several common types of tasks you see on the TV version of the Amazing Race, including detours (a choice between two tasks), roadblocks (a task that only one team member can perform), and team challenges that the entire team has to complete together before they can receive their next clue.
Detours along the race included choices such as “Meat” or “Meet” – where racers had to decide if they wanted to try to identify various types of jerky meat, or to find an animal larger than a mouse and take a picture of themselves with it. Another popular detour was “Pitch a ball” or “Pitch a tent”—where experienced campers could prove their skills in putting up a tent properly and quickly, while others attempted to gain 100 points by throwing a football through marked holes in a tarp.
The new approach to fundraising not only opened the door to more community involvement from supporters of the Christian school, but it also provided a way for community members to support other Christian organizations in the neighbourhood
One of the race challenges included a stop at the community’s new re-Source Thrift Store—a store run completely by volunteers which donates funds to TCS as well as other local charities. Racers were instructed to find 15 items in the store that fit into specific categories, in as little time as possible.
“It was a great way to get people into the door of places in the community that are supportive of our school as well,” shared Ms. Van Loenen. “We are community, and we’re here to support each other.”
Etho Solar, a company owned by parents of TCS students, was another stop along the race route. Teams put their mathematics skills to the test to figure out how many solar panels it would take on a roof to get a certain amount of energy.
Ms. Van Loenen’s favorite challenge involved the race participants assembling and delivering baskets of commonly used items for Youth Haven, a shelter for youth in the Simcoe region. Teams collaborated to put together a basket of hygiene items, blankets, and other resources that were helpful to the youth, and were given the opportunity to deliver them in person.
“Our school is putting forward a huge effort to make a mark on the community, and also to support other Christian organizations in the neighbourhood,” shared Ms. Van Loenen. “Youth Haven is a wonderful place that works hard to support our youth, and this event provided a clear opportunity for us to give something to their organization along the way.”
“This challenge was a highlight for my team,” said Christina Fairchild, whose team was named The Outlaws. “We all thought it was pretty cool to make up a gift basket, and then to actually get to deliver it to a local charity as part of a challenge.”
Janet Geertsema, who has put her own children through Christian education and now has grandchildren attending TCS, agreed that including an act of service into the race was a highlight. “It showed clear evidence of the work of the Christian community in the community at large in Barrie.”
Aside from a few small glitches, including a misplaced clue at one of the race locations, the race went smoothly, and TCS community members enjoyed a fun outing with friends.
“I loved that I was able to spend the day with some of my family, just having fun!” shared Ms. Fairchild. “My husband was pretty brave to team up with three sisters. I think we were all surprised how well we worked together.”
“We loved all of it,” Ms. Geertsema related. “The incredible weather, the healthy competition with the other teams, the pumping adrenaline of teaming up with friends and meeting the challenges—it was a fun afternoon!”
In order to ease the transition between having an outdoors community event instead of their traditional evening gala, the fundraising committee opted to include an evening dinner and auction at the end of the day. Guests were invited to a Final Pit Stop Dinner and Square Dance. Enthusiastic community members arrived dressed in western garb, ready to enjoy a meal of barbecued food items. As the dinner guests waited for the top two teams of racers to arrive and compete in one last challenge before checking in at the mat of the Final Pit Stop, they enjoyed some race-style activities of their own, including competitive ring toss, lasso challenges, and shuffleboard while enjoying signature drinks. After the winning team was crowned, guests kicked up their heels and enjoyed a community square dance together to end the evening.
“The TCS community has hosted a number of fundraising galas over the past years, and I have always been amazed at the creativity and work that goes into them,” shared Ms. Geertsema. “The addition of the race this year was a unique and fun event!”
In terms of reaching their fundraising goals, Ms. Van Loenen was thrilled that they were able to raise a generous amount for the school’s capital fund, but she emphasized that the goal for this year was more than just about the money—it was about pulling community together.
“Our board put in a lot of work recently to map out the five-year goals for our school, and each year we review them to make sure we are hitting those goals,” she shared. “One of the big ones is sustainability, and we thought that it might be good to change things up a bit in the way that we raise non-tuition revenue. This race fit right in with these goals, and we are so pleased with how it brought our community together.”
Now that they’ve done the event once, Ms. Van Loenen is certain that more people will be ready to sign up for future races at TCS.
“It was so fun. Everyone was so appreciative, and they really loved it. They’re already making up teams for next year.”
Ms. Fairchild echoed this observation. “We had a blast!” she shared. “We have other friends and family members who are excited to participate in the next Amazing Race—but they are going to have to find their own team!”
Ms. Van Loenen also shared that it was a blessing to watch the generations of supporters come together during an event such as the Amazing Race. “It’s a bit like passing the baton,” she shared. “There are people here who founded the school, and they just love seeing a younger generation of parents and community members taking over an event such as this one and coming up with new ideas that will bring community together in a fun and meaningful way.”