Over 100 million Americans live with chronic pain, and advocates are key to educating others about pain-related issues. In the previous issue, we outlined ten ways to advocate, but one of the best ways to harness the power of advocacy and make a specific contribution is to organize an educational pain event. September is National Pain Awareness Month, a good time to start.

Anyone can create a pain awareness event, and U.S. Pain Foundation can help with instructions, materials, support and resources—such as The Invisible Project—making you an official pain ambassador.

WHAT KIND OF EVENT?

To get started consider a basic but effective event called Take Control of Your Pain. This program’s goal is to provide hope and information to people in pain and caregivers. This forum helps link attendees with others who live nearby, make new friends, share personal stories and recognize the need to become proactive and empowered. Remember, it is your event and should reflect your own style and concerns.

3 WAYS TO GET STARTED

1)  Prepare a notebook to keep track of planning details.

2)  Pick a date at least three month ahead. For greater exposure, plan your event during a designated charity’s day or month.

3)  Decide on the location and length of your event. A hospital is a good choice because it provides parking, handicap accessibility and a stream of medical staff who may want to attend.

Other sites to consider are community centers or libraries. An ideal location has no fee, can accomodate about 100 people, will allow food and has a podium and microphone. Ideally, space for U.S. Pain Foundation’s INvisible Project (stories and images of pain survivors)  would be available. Allow approximately two hours for the event.

WHO’S SPEAKING?

Decide if you want inspirational speakers (usually pain survivors), or speakers from the medical field. Individuals who are passionate about patients’ best interests and who wish to educate the community won’t request compensation. Use your network of clinicians and experts to find appropriate people. Need help? U.S. Pain can help you locate a speaker.

Consider requesting donations from local food vendors. Remember to note the vendor’s contact information, and stay in contact with them. Use program breaks to encourage attendees to move around, have refreshments and network with one another. Remember, most attendees are likely living with chronic pain.

GET THE WORD OUTAdvocacy—Creating a Pain Awareness Event

U.S. Pain Foundation can help you market your event. Start with a flyer and a printer who can donate print costs. If you are not successful, U.S. Pain Foundation can design, print and ship the flyers to you. Then determine the best place to post them. Doctors’ offices, senior/community centers, libraries, churches, grocery stores and town hall bulletin boards are good options.

Letters to the editors of local newspapers detailing the upcoming event are very effective, and free. U.S. Pain Foundation will publicize the event on its website and social media sites and ask its fans, followers and pain ambassadors to share the event with their network of family and friends. The flyer can also be placed on the Ambassador Only online forum and blog so fellow pain warriors are aware and can send people your way. Email is also used to highlight up-coming pain ambassador awareness events.

THE MONTH BEFORE THE EVENT

1)  Prepare a program that includes the order of your speakers, U.S. Pain Foundation contact information and your contact information. Again, ask a local printer to donate the cost of the printing.

2)  Prepare a press release—a template is provided by U.S. Pain. Most newspapers request a two-week notification. Call or email to clarify submission dates, and make a note of what you find. This is important because if sent too early, the press release can be set aside, and if sent too late, it may be ignored. Also remember that newspapers, radio, TV and magazines can help get the word out.

3)  Have flyers to distribute to local pain clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, stores and community/senior centers. Ask others to help you distribute.

4)  Contact U.S. Pain for handout materials and bags to distribute at the event.

MONTH OF THE EVENT

Are your location, date and time set? Be sure to call a few weeks before to confirm. At this time, request the number of tables you want set out for refreshments and handouts, a podium for the speakers and a microphone.

Contact your speakers and make sure they are on board and know where and when to be at the event. Be sure to ask them for any information they would like you to include when introducing them.

Be sure that the room will have the seats set up for you on the day of the event and confirm where you will display the INvisible Project, if you have chosen to do so. Have volunteers ready to help set up at least an hour before your event. Name tags are a good idea.

Get press releases out to as many forms of media as possible: newspapers, TV and radio. Remember to adhere to each media’s request about when to send press releases.

Prepare your opening remarks and have your folder ready with the introductions of your speakers.

DAY OF THE EVENT

°  Pick up the food and any other donations.

°  Arrive early to set up with your support team.

°  Make sure the microphone is loud enough.

°  Arrange handouts and refreshments for easy access.

°  Set up the INvisible Project display, if you are using it.

DON’T FORGET:

Have fun, be proud and enjoy the event! So many people will feel validated and understood as they recognize they are not alone with their pain. Connections will be made that can last a lifetime. {PP}