Mary Jo Byrne was a loving mother, wife, and grandmother. Her family described her as “strict but passionate,” and all four of her daughters very much knew they were loved. Most of all, she taught her family to work hard, set a positive example, and take care of their own. Mary Jo lived with COPD for 20 years. The disease slowed her down and would try very hard to keep up with her family as best she could. She was a social person and loved shopping, but outings became increasingly difficult over time. The family said COPD was “cruel and debilitating.”
When the Byrne family lost Mary Jo to the disease, they decided to take action to raise awareness and funds. Now, they plan an annual race called the MK4MJ, which raises money for individuals who cannot afford rehabilitation and medication. We reached out to the Byrne family to learn more about their efforts:
Q: Tell us about your event.
A: A portion of the proceeds from the race goes to a scholarship fund that assists patients who can’t afford medication or rehab services. The scholarship fund pays for those services. The scholarship fund is in mom’s name.
Q: Organizing a race is a lot of work. How do you ensure success?
A: Our family and friends promote, promote, and promote the race. A lot of marketing and networking goes into the planning of the race. We are blessed with a lot of family and friends who are big supporters of the race. We have no payroll, and we shop and get the lowest price on everything we buy. Our biggest expense is the timing company and t-shirts. We also pray a lot!
Q: How do you get everything done?
1. The first thing we did was to organize our staff and apply for the 501c3.
2. We chose a date, location, a timing company, registration company and set a budget. (Many requirements must be met at this stage.)
3. Set up the website, Facebook and Twitter page.
4. Created advertisement literature, sponsorship tiers, promoted as much as possible (Press Release, Local Event Websites, Email Blasts, Facebook Campaigns, Twitter, Newsletters, Health Fairs, Church Bulletins and etc.).
5. Had fundraisers (pizza night, bingo and etc.) to raise money to promote the race.
6. Organized volunteers for packet pick-up and event day, ordered t-shirts, and reviewed race day event.
7. Race Day, set-up, day of registration, 5k race, kids fun run and COPD Honoree Walk, clean up, and Prayed a lot!!! We could not do this by ourselves. It takes many volunteers, especially day of race.
Q: Is it hard to get involved with fundraising?
A: It is easy to get involved. The first year it was not hard to ask for money and people were quite generous, but the second year and years later, it becomes harder, especially during hard times. We are always trying to find other sources of income to support the race.
Q: Who are your supporters?
A: Local people that mother knew personally in the community. Business associates, Doctors, church members, family and friends.
We applaud the Byrne family for their great work with the MK4MJ, Running with Wings 5k race in honor of their mother. If you live in Shawnee, KS, tell your friends and family to register in support!