A Kiwanis club makes use of its hometown’s renown for an event that’s sweet and scenic.

By Tony Knoderer 

The Kiwanis Club of Lititz Area in Pennsylvania, U.S., raised more than US$90,000 for local kids in October during its 22nd Chocolate Walk. Each year, the club works with chocolate makers big and small to provide treats to attendees. This year, more than 2,000 people bought tickets that allowed them to walk throughout Lititz, gathering goodies from 33 chocolatiers and chefs. 

One reason for the event’s success, says club member Charlie Stickler, is the town itself. 

“Lititz is known as one of the best small towns in America,” Stickler says. “It’s a well-visited tourist area.” 

A scenic small town is a nice place to hold an event where people walk around on an autumn day. It’s also a good place to build an event that people return to year after year — even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

“We had rain most of the day,” Stickler says. “But most people, rain or shine, they’re there.” 

Keep ’em coming
After more than two decades, the event’s reputation precedes it. The Chocolate Walk is usually held in the first half of October, with tickets on sale in July. This year, Stickler says, the club had sold out by mid-September.   

That success keeps the chocolatiers — as well as sponsors and partners — coming back. 

“The businesses here say it’s the second or third busiest day in town because of the draw,” Stickler says.  

Of course, a sizable event requires a large number of volunteers to run smoothly — especially for a club with not quite 30 members. This year the Lititz club got help from more than 200 people, including members of the local Key Clubs the Kiwanians sponsor. 

From near and far
At this point, the size and success of the Chocolate Walk attracts people from beyond Lititz itself. In fact, Stickler says, the Chocolate Walk attracts visitors from 16 to 20 other U.S. states every year. 

“A woman called me from New Mexico and asked about tickets,” he says. “She said her family figured, since they were on their way to a family reunion east of us, they might as well try to go to this event they’d heard about.” 

Thanks to the event’s success, the Lititz club has donated funds to several local organizations, such as the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development, Lancaster Cleft Pallet Clinic and the Lititz and Manheim Township Libraries.

How they do it

The Lititz Kiwanis Club doesn’t have a huge number of members — but that doesn’t stop them from having a big impact. Here are some elements of the Chocolate Walk that could help your club’s signature project. 

  • Planning. The club starts planning each year’s Chocolate Walk in January, with monthly meetings that focus on the event. The key, Stickler says, is to keep members in touch with sponsors, partners and volunteers throughout the year. 
  • Recruiting. Members are reminded to talk about Kiwanis. In fact, the club has cards that feature Kiwanis and what members do — and invites people to attend a meeting.  
  • Town renown. Lititz itself is an attraction, so the club maximizes its fundraiser’s appeal by making it a “walk” — rather than restricting the event to one place. And with the town’s history as the home of Wilbur Chocolate, the club builds on a foundation of local renown. What’s your town’s biggest industry or claim to fame? 
  • Sponsors and partners. Fundraisers cost money. The Kiwanis Club of Lititz Area offsets the expense with sponsorships — everyone from the Ford dealer to insurance companies and local retailers. The “stations” along the walk range from shops to the Lititz Historical Foundation building. 
  • SLPs. Sponsoring and maintaining a bond with a Service Leadership Program club results in eager volunteers for the Lititz club. Even during homecoming weekend, Stickler says, the Manheim Township Key Club provided 15 to 20 volunteers. 
  • Add-on events. The success of the Chocolate Walk has encouraged the club to try smaller fundraisers with similar themes — including the Pretzel Fest and a wine-and-chocolate tasting, which cumulatively raise another $20,000 per year.