By Hawkeye Johnson
Outdoor adventures provide a unique opportunity to raise money for a charity. You have decided to embark on an adventure already so why not help others too. It’s fairly easy to contact your favorite charity and let them know what you're doing and the intention to raise money for them. They can set up a fund with a link for people to donate to, track donations and send out tax receipts.
“Tattoo Joe” Kisner and Hawkeye Johnson, Southern Terminus 2009 PCT.
In 2007, I was inspired by watching 2 kids skiing laps off a chairlift and raising money per lap for a charity. I had plans to thru-hike the CDT that spring so I went to the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program (TASP) with my proposal. They created a page on their website informing people about the project and encouraging donations per mile. I then created a basic one page website called GoHawkeye with links to my TASP page and to the free journal I created at www.trailjournals.com. I made journal entries and added pictures when I could during the five month trek.
Hawkeye, Big John and Allgood 2010 PCT.
Using your adventures for fundraising can be a very rewarding experience. By raising the money you can direct how it is used by the charity. You must be willing to write about your experience, share it with others as well as doing some self promotion. Long distance adventures present an opportunity to raise money through per mile donations that can really add up. Practically any activity can be used for fundraising if you’re willing to promote it and it can also be fun!
Hawkeye and Kevin Murray skiing through TASP at Telluride Ski Resort 2011.
I had been teaching people with disabilities to ski, snowboard and bike through TASP for many years and wondered what else I could do to help the organization, my CDT hike was the perfect way. I began to promote the fundraiser by word of mouth with family and friends. TASP promoted it on their website and newsletter and I was able to get the local newspaper to do a story about it. During the hike, I would update the journal and newspaper when I could and asked readers to spread the word as they tracked my progress.
Danielle L. Watson ,the subject of the GoHawkeye film “Falling Into Place” , riding in Moab, UT. 2014. Photo courtesy of Gohawkeye.org
Amazingly, by the end of the hike I had raised $17,000 through the TASP website! They are a recognized 501(c)3 organization by the government and sent Tax receipts to all the donors while I wrote thank you notes to everyone when I returned. Even better, TASP let me specify that the funds be used for specialized sports equipment and some audio visual equipment that was sorely needed by the program. 100% of the money went to TASP and I paid all my own expenses. Since then, I raised an additional $33,000 for TASP while completing the PCT and the Colorado Trail and have seen many great things done with the money.
Archery equipment provided by a GoHawkeye grant to Camp Big Sky in Farmington, IL. 2020. Photo courtesy of Camp Big Sky.
I began to have a greater understanding of how important outdoor recreation and adventures in nature were to all of us and especially those living with a disability. It was one thing to go to an adaptive organization and try out equipment but not own it. In 2013, some friends and I sponsored an essay contest to win a custom handcycle. We chose paraplegic Daniel L Watson and granted her a multi-day adventure riding her new pink bike in Moab, Utah. We were so inspired by Danielle that we made a short documentary about her story called, “Falling Into Place” www.fallingintoplace.org.
Triathlete Gerritt Schaffer training with a GoHawkeye grant 2018. Photo courtesy of Gerritt Schaffer.
It took a lot of friends and support to make this happen but we were so empowered by what was possible that in 2014 we created a non-profit called the GoHawkeye Foundation whose mission is to support adaptive athletes and adaptive organizations with financial grants for sports equipment and sport experiences. To date we have awarded 75 athletes and 10 organizations with grants totaling $250,000.
2007 poster of my first fundraiser hike and 2nd CDT.
With the formation of the all-volunteer www.gohawkeye.org, I continued to hike and raise money for adaptive sports and recreation by inventing a 450 mile loop trail through the San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado. The GoHawkeye San Juan Trail begins and ends in Telluride, CO. It’s a combination of established trails and forest service roads and may require some bushwhacking. It offers 8 possible resupply towns, 9 fourteeners and many high alpine lakes and streams to fish. The trail has an average elevation of 10,400 feet. This summer, I will be hiking a 475 mile variation of it while still raising money for adaptive athletes through the GoHawkeye Foundations.
About the Author
Hawkeye Johnson began hiking many years ago while growing up near the Appalachian Trail in Maine. He found long distance hiking especially important in relieving the stress of a twenty-year career in the Department of Corrections for the State of Connecticut. After he retired in 1995, he had the time to really get into it. By 2005, he had achieved hiking's famous Triple Crown, the Colorado Trail, the Arizona Trail, and the Appalachian Trail for the second time.