ELYRIA — United Way of Greater Lorain County officials will emphasize participation as much as fund-raising in this year’s campaign.
The agency’s annual kickoff luncheon Friday will take place at Mike Bass Ford in Sheffield, where it has been staged for the past several years.
Coinciding with the start of school and high school football seasons that evening, the event again will sport a football tailgate theme.
“We are working to emphasize participation as much or more than reaching a financial goal,” Ryan Aroney, United Way marketing and development director, said Wednesday.
The county’s United Way generated about $3 million during its 2013 campaign, which topped the 2012 campaign fundraising of $2.8 million. The agency has seen increased giving since 2010.
While topping last year’s fundraising total would be a plus, it isn’t the end-all of a change in strategy and thinking that has seen United Way put greater emphasis on boosting the number of organizations and people taking part in sponsored programs, such as the countywide United We Sweat program.
In its third year, the initiative sees Lorain County Community College, the Lorain County General Health District, French Creek Family YMCA, Lorain County Metro Parks and other agencies offering nearly free exercise and health-related classes and events across the county.
The overall goal of the effort is to promote physical activity, healthier living and healthy eating.
Recent surveys found that nearly 70 percent of the county’s adults were either overweight or regarded as obese, while more than 20 percent had heart disease. Diabetes affected more than 10 percent.
The cost of joining fitness centers or health programs frequently is cited as a major factor in preventing people from getting active, said Dave Covell, Lorain County health commissioner.
The effort has grown dramatically over time, offering nearly twice the number of free exercise or health-related classes for Lorain County residents this year as in 2013.
Other participating organizations include the Center for Health and Fitness at University Hospitals Avon Health Center, Mercy Health and Recreation Center in Amherst, and the Vermilion Family YMCA.
The United Way luncheon is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Anyone wishing to attend is asked to wear a Live United T-shirt.
Shirts will be handed out to those without one while supplies last.
The luncheon is free, but online registration is required.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.