With event canceled, Fun in the Park pivots to fall fundraiser
The dream, in Brady Mordhorst's mind, is for two Wilsonville joggers to run past each other this September while wearing the same shirt.
Ideally they would stop and say hi, forming an instant bond over shirts that read "Run Wilsonville" on the front with "Run for More" on the back. Replicate this scene enough, and Wilsonville's annual Fun in the Park event will be on much more stable footing as it looks ahead to 2021.
Mordhorst, who serves as president of the nonprofit that puts on Fun in the Park each year, organized Run Wilsonville as a fundraiser that ideally will help offset some of the substantial financial losses that followed the cancellation of this year's Fun in the Park due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Run Wilsonville is set up as a monthlong challenge, with participants signing up to either walk or run their choice of three distances: 25, 50 or 100 miles. The registration fee of $40 will earn participants a T-shirt and entry into the challenge, with proceeds going directly toward Fun in the Park.
"We're using that as kind of a kickstart fundraiser to make sure, at least financially, Fun in the Park can come back in 2021," Mordhorst said. "I definitely have a passion for seeing something that's happened this long continue. Forty-five years of Wilsonville history is into this organization and I definitely feel a responsibility to keep it alive."
Indeed, Fun in the Park — a free event in August that features dozens of activities for kids, live demonstrations, music and performances — has a history dating all the way back to 1975, when it was "Wilsonville Celebration Days."
The current iteration of Fun in the Park began in 2000, and it has always been 100% community-funded.
"We've averaged over 9,000 people attending the event and over 100 different companies and sponsors that get involved," Mordhorst said. "But even with all that community involvement, it takes right around $50,000 (each year) to provide all that free fun at no cost to the community."
And while some expenses disappeared after the event was canceled this year, others like storage costs, insurance and filing fees have forced Fun in the Park to dip dangerously deep into its savings.
"All of those annual expenses are really making our savings close to zero," Mordhorst said. "That really puts a strain on looking forward to being able to do this for the community in 2021 … or whenever large-scale events are welcomed back."
Mordhorst doesn't have a particular fundraising goal in mind for Run Wilsonville, though he joked that "$50,000 would be the goal obviously." Realistically, he said raising between $5,000 and $7,000 would be enough to "get us going."
"We start getting bills in February or March to pay things into August," he said. "So we definitely need funds to at least get started before February or March of 2021."
Of course, much remains uncertain regarding the feasibility of the event next year — both because no one knows when large events will be considered safe again and due to the toll the pandemic has taken on the local economy.
"The challenge of producing something like Fun in the Park is because it is community-funded, and a lot of those are businesses, I have no idea what the outlook for that kind of giving will be next year," Mordhorst said.
Already, organizers had been seeing a drop in donations over the past five years.
"It's always been in our mind to try and revamp where we get funds from," Mordhorst said. "This might be a thing that pushes us over the edge to really do that."
The nonprofit has looked into grant possibilities, but Mordhorst said the simple nature of the event — providing free fun for kids and families without any strings attached — makes it difficult to find the right match.
"We're not here to study impacts (of the event)," he said. "It's one day of free fun."
Asking for more support from the broader community also would go against the spirit of the event, Mordhorst said.
"It sort of goes against the mission of Wilsonville Celebration Days," he said. "(We're here) to provide free fun for the community."
That leaves private funding as one of the only feasible options if Fun in the Park does indeed shift its model.
"We might have to look into private funding … people who are able to fund something like this out of their own pocketbook without receiving recognition, or maybe they have their own private foundation," he said.
For now, he hopes people will take part in the September fundraiser.
"We're doing this to keep it alive," he said.
To register for Run Wilsonville, click here. The deadline to ensure a T-shirt delivery is Aug. 22 and the challenge begins Sept. 1.
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