‘Most Amazing Race’ Raises Funds for Memphis Command
By: David Ibata
The Salvation Army Memphis Area Command recently ran a most amazing fundraiser: Braving a threat of severe weather, “The Most Amazing Race” generated $24,317 for the “Heal Memphis” fight against violence, addiction, poverty and homelessness.
The race, held Saturday, March 25, is the Army’s version of the popular TV show, “The Amazing Race.” Twenty-four teams of three members apiece, a total of 72 runners, followed clues to checkpoints along a five-mile course, accomplishing 10 challenges along the way.
“The weather held off, which is great,” said Aaron Keegan, director of special events for the Memphis Area Command. “Our volunteers also showed up in force; that’s always a good thing. We had about 60 volunteers at the 10 locations and being bused around Memphis.”
The idea for the charity race originated with The Salvation Army of the Twin Cities of Minnesota; the 12th Most Amazing Race of Minneapolis-St. Paul will happen in the late summer or early fall.
The Tennesseans started their own version of the event in 2016. They fielded 25 teams with 75 runners and raised about $17,500. This year, two major sponsors – City Auto, a local car dealership, and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee – donated $10,000 apiece. The balance of monies raised came from smaller sponsors and race entry fees.
To qualify for the $1,200 prize for the first-place finisher, an “Amazing FundRacer” team had to show at least $500 in pledges. Others entered the “In it for FUN” division and competed for prize packages containing such goodies as restaurant gift certificates, movie passes, car detailing packages, hats and watches and complimentary three-month family memberships to The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center.
A team fielded by The Memphis Flyer weekly newspaper came in first in the race and in the FUN division; “Snap Crackle Pop,” a local women’s team, was second in the race and first in the FundRacer category.
Here’s how the Army set up the Memphis race: It takes place entirely downtown and begins and ends in Handy Park on Beale Street. Teams head out on foot. There’s no time-keeping; the idea is to go fast and come in first, second or third. But to ensure runners don’t bunch up at checkpoints, the race starts with a puzzle challenge: One team member is blindfolded, and the other two give advice on finishing a jigsaw puzzle.
“Once your team finishes the puzzle, you get your first clue” to the first checkpoint, Keegan said.
Checkpoint challenges include the “Hose Roll,” a partnership of the Army with the Memphis Fire Department. “They have a 50-foot hose one person has to roll up nice and tight, like a firefighter does, and carry it about 100 feet; then another person has to carry it back 100 feet; and the last person has to unroll it and make sure the activity is complete,” Keegan said.
Another is the “Kettle Challenge.” Teams must locate a red Salvation Army kettle squirreled away somewhere downtown. “Navigation is the big thing,” Keegan said. “You can use your phone, but a lot of it is dependent on you communicating with your teammates.”
Besides being fun and raising money for a good cause, the Most Amazing Race publicizes what The Salvation Army does in Memphis. The Army is the community’s largest provider of shelter and services for homeless women and children, the only organization with a shelter specifically for homeless single women, and the largest provider of addiction recovery programs. Last year, the Army here provided 95,630 bed nights, 231,380 meals and life enrichment to 3,500 children.
The Most Amazing Race focuses on the central business district, Keegan said, “because we really want to partner with downtown businesses and organizations. We bring people down here to see and to be able to be with some of the partners that support us here in Memphis. It’s a way to get people from out of town, from other cities around us, to learn more about what the downtown area is doing for The Salvation Army.”