The anniversary of HealthQuest's founding isn't just cause for an anniversary party; it's also cause for club management at the Flemington, NJ, club to thank its 14,000 members and give back to worthy causes. That's why each April, the club hosts a celebration to thank members, to generate excitement for new programming and to raise money for charity. Last year, 5,200 people attended the club's Member Appreciation Day.
“Members look forward to it every year — there's an incredible amount of excitement,” says Deirdre Whalen, general manager. “We wanted to reach everyone from kids to adults, from members who have been here for years and members who were experiencing their first Membership Appreciation Day. I actually highly recommend it to other facilities because you're giving back to members and letting them know that we appreciate them.”
To coordinate the day's numerous activities, the club starts its planning process early and schedules regular meetings for the planning committee. Whalen says club management starts brainstorming the event's theme in October, then puts the committee together in January.
Last year's theme was A Walk in the Park. A local garden store donated park benches, potted trees and bird baths to help decorate the club. Staff pulled together to decorate the facility, putting a white picket fence around the front desk to add ambiance at a free lemonade stand set up there. Throughout the day, club members were treated to free food and drinks.
“We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Whalen says. “We open at 5 a.m. that day and close at 8 p.m. We feed everyone who comes in.”
She said members line up at the club's front doors at 4:45 a.m. in anticipation of the event. Staff members make sure everything is ready to go.
“We set up the night before, and we're there until 11 at night,” says Kevin Messina, public relations manager. “A lot of people were nervous to bring in trees. And we had nerves, but with the team we have, we knew we could pull it off. You've got to have fun with it, because it can be extremely stressful.”
Staff members enjoy the event so much that even employees not scheduled to work show up to help, Whalen says.
In addition to free food, the club hires a DJ to spin music in the lobby. The $5,000 budget covers the cost of the food, entertainment and decorations, Whalen says. In addition, they provided a storyteller for children in the club's KidQuest area. Children in the club's dance performance and cheerleading groups also stage demonstrations in the lobby throughout the day.
One of the most successful aspects of last year's Member Appreciation Day was the launch of several new group fitness programs by one of the companies that offers pre-choreographed group exercise programs.
“We try to have every department ‘wow’ it that day,” says Whalen.
The group exercise department “wowed” it by launching six new programs that day, and it did so in a larger venue — the club's sports center — which holds 150 people rather than the 50 to 75 people that the group exercise room holds. The club had 100 participants in some of the classes.
“With the music blasting and the energy up, each member had a blast and lived by our group fitness motto: Please Refrain from Not Moving,” she says.
The club also debuted its suspension training program with demonstrations by two trainers who could explain the programming's benefits to members. The club offered a special deal to members who signed up on the spot, resulting in 27 members signing up for the class.
The club didn't stop there. In addition to showing members how much they were appreciated, management raised $25,000 for the Special Olympics through raffle tickets sold that day and through proceeds from the club's 5K run in May.