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Local CreateAthon puts creative talents to charitable use

24-hour event creates signage, campaigns, branding materials and website designs for non-profits

Employees at a Guelph company have seen the effects of how far-reaching a little kindness can go over the course of a 24-hour time period.

Alchemy Systems has been leading CreateAthon Waterloo-Wellington since 2015 – part of a global initiative and the largest in Canada – in partnership with Capacity Canada and graphic design students from Conestoga College. Working together for one day and night, they have since produced over 100 projects for 24 non-profit organizations, enabling them to move their missions forward.

This year’s marathon will see over 100 volunteers gather at Alchemy’s Guelph office on Oct. 19 and 20 to work on the campaigns of 18 organizations, selected from a contest that received nearly 60 applications with requests spanning from new logos and branding materials to outreach campaigns, building signage, and website designs.

“For a lot of these organizations, we’re giving them access to a professional level of quality on graphics and communication marketing materials that they would otherwise not have access to. They just simply couldn’t afford it,” said Terry McGuire, Alchemy’s creative director and lead organizer for CreateAthon, who estimated the average value of work and campaign materials provided to each client organization at $10,000 to $15,000.

“It’s not about the money, but for these charities, it’s pretty powerful.”

This year, Manulife Financial joined CreateAthon as a partner and will lend 14 of their employees to volunteer their skills and time; Conestoga’s Public Relations students will also volunteer and lend writing and graphic design services.

Split into 18 creative teams averaging seven people, each dedicated team includes graphic artists, writers, art directors and account managers, along with “floaters” who specialize in niche areas and work on multiple projects.

It’s a cause near and dear to the hearts of everyone who has a hand in the event – where payoff comes from the passionate reactions at a presentation breakfast the following day.

“Those reveal presentations – that’s the payback. It’s invigorating, humbling and emotional,” McGuire said.

“There will be tears,” agreed Karen McCrae, Alchemy copywriter and organizing committee member, explaining that clients are usually overwhelmed and tears of happiness have been shed from both ends during presentations.

CreateAthon is a curriculum component of the graphic design program at Conestoga and McGuire said he strives to provide good, quality projects for its students that they can showcase in their portfolios.

McGuire is a former student who met his wife in the program; their daughter is a graduate and he has also instructed there in the past.

While this year’s winners are primarily locally based, the contest has branched out to include organizations in provinces coast to coast. For more information on CreateAthon and a list of 2017 winners, visit here.