After three days of conference sessions, interviews, meetings, socializing and, to be honest, a little bit too much time spent in the cigar bar at the Talking Stick Resort, I was completely exhausted. The 2012 Continuity Insights Management Conference was a resounding success, due in part to the contemporary sessions (the Ask The Experts track was particularly well received) and the attention to detail exhibited by our publisher, Bob Nakao, and administrative assistant, Alyssa McCarthy.
But there was one thing left to do …
At the 2006 Continuity Insights Management Conference in New Orleans, which was one of the first events to return to the city after Katrina devastated the area in 2005, Bob launched Continuity Cares — a volunteer program that gives attendees an opportunity to help a local charity. Since then, Continuity Cares has become a permanent fixture following the conference.
This year we chose the Sunshine Acres Children’s Home as the focus for our volunteer efforts. On the Thursday morning a group of about 25 conference attendees and Continuity Insights staff set off into the desert, not knowing exactly what was in store for us.
The children’s home was founded in 1953 and is now a sprawling compound containing residences, classrooms, gardens and recreational areas. We were divided up and assigned various tasks: raking grass, performing maintenance on the play areas and — for those not quick enough to get into one of the aforementioned groups — digging post holes for an eight foot fence that will surround the vegetable garden.
Editorial Director Jeff Reinke channeling his inner constuction worker while others took shifts with the jackhammer.
Unlike here in Wisconsin, the dirt in Arizona more closely resembles concrete. After an hour of enthusiastic but futile digging with picks and shovels, we were given a jackhammer to loosen up the soil. With our new piece of heavy-duty equipment we managed to dig the 12-or-so holes and drill screw holes in the posts through which the fencing will be attached.
Speaking of heavy equipment, Howard Manella from Expedia managed to snag a ride-on mower and proceeded to not only mow the lawns but also run errands between working groups.
By midday it was over 90° and the Sunshine Acres staff took pity on us, dismissing us from the labor-intensive tasks. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with a group of kids ranging in age from about 8 to 15 years old.
After a round of introductions, the teachers encouraged us to pair up with one of the kids. I’m not sure why, but Tyler came straight up to me and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to be his buddy for the day.
After discovering that Tyler and a few of the other kids were Chicago Bears fans we set up a game of touch football. My editorial director Jeff Reinke will tell you that his team won the game. All I know is that we managed to pull off some of the most sophisticated trick plays I’ve ever been a part of, so for that fact alone we deserved to win.
After the game we started constructing the kites Bob bought for the kids. The pressure was really on me because word got around that I majored in Applied Physics during my undergraduate degree. I may be able to construct and interpret an electron energy loss spectrum graph, but following instructions that come with anything — be it a piece of furniture or tethered aircraft — is not my strong point.
Much to my surprise our kite was successfully launched and maintained its integrity for the hour-or-so of flight time. I have to say I was particularly impressed with Tyler’s intricate design, and his positive outlook, enthusiasm, talent and wit were inspirational.
Tyler and me with our kite.
The “Kids Say the Darndest Things” moment of the day came when one of the more distinguished-looking members of the Continuity Cares team was asked why he had paint in his hair. I guess these kids don’t often see such a full head of white hair.
The combination of emotion and laughter made this a truly memorable day. I’d like to thank all of the volunteers at this year’s Continuity Cares volunteers — we hope to see an even bigger group for our volunteer event in San Diego in 2013.