A Journey for 9/11, an organization founded in 2007 and directed by retired NY Giant George Martin, benefits the many rescue and recovery workers suffering medically from their efforts around 9/11. Winuk Communications was brought on to raise awareness of the 3,003-mile, nine-month walk across the US to raise funds for the ailing workers. "Relatively few people have walked continuously across the United States, and fewer still have done so for charitable purposes," says Jay Winuk, president of Winuk Communications. "As likely the first African-American professional athlete to do so for charity, George Martin's Journey was truly historic."
With the 7th anniversary in 2008, the team staged several events in New York.
Earlier challenges the team had faced included generating money for a tragedy that occurred years before – many had already made 9/11-related donations and in a tough economy were not as fast to make another. It also had to make people outside of New York aware that the ailing population represented all 50 states, not just New York.
“The affected population is... nationwide,” Winuk says, adding that publicizing Martin's walk around the country was a good instrument and reminder to the public that it is not just a local problem, and that those who rose to help did not only help New York and its citizens, but also the country.
To support the anniversary, the team set up several speaking events for Martin last fall, including the Dave Matthews Band concert at Madison Square Garden. Additionally, he appeared at the Cantor Fitzgerald 9/11 fundraising event. The team also coordinated the first annual “A Journey for 9/11” fundraising gala at the Sports Museum of America and arranged for Martin to be honored at the WTC Tribute Center across from Ground Zero.
The team pitched local and national media before each event, but also went beyond that.
“We did far more than just generate publicity,” Winuk says. The firm handled speech writing, fielded questions from the 9/11 community, and got involved in government relations to determine the status of legislation supporting ailing 9/11 workers.
The campaign has raised almost $3 million from individual and corporate donors toward its ongoing multimillion-dollar goal. In addition, nationwide awareness has risen a great deal.
“He completely blew me away,” says David Jurist, a member of the board of directors and treasurer of A Journey for 9/11, of Winuk. “I was completely impressed with the amount of PR [the firm] got for this journey. I've never seen anything like it in the business... We almost couldn't keep up with the press.”
The effort was featured in various national media outlets, including The New York Times and Associated Press. It was also featured in local papers like the Newark Star-Ledger and Philadelphia Inquirer.
It is currently unknown as to whether Winuk Communications and A Journey for 9/11 will continue to collaborate together in the future.
As any PR agency knows, getting people to actually take action is never an easy task. The events of 9/11 brought on many worthy donations, but as years pass after a tragic historical event, people tend to assume there's not much left they can do.
Winuk Communications' decision to focus on this year's anniversary was a smart and effective idea, especially in the New York metro area, which was the most affected by the tragedy. By utilizing Martin's sports background, the team was able to garner coverage from a vast amount of audiences and achieve its fundraising goals.
PR team: A Journey for 9/11 (Warwick, NY) and Winuk Communications (Carmel, NY)
Campaign: Supporting the Ailing Rescue and Recovery Workers of Ground Zero
Duration: September 2007-January 2009