Tag Archives: United States

The Legend & Journey of Una and Chris

Una & Chris

To a very special couple,

 

They separately crossed the vast Atlantic Ocean and met in the US of A,

 

At a YMCA Camp;

 

Then together traveled back to Belfast.

 

Now you have invited us to share in the rest of your journey together;

 

To be wed in Ireland this week.

 

You both bring smiles as we have watched you plan for one of the biggest days of your life on Facebook!

 

It brings inspiration to see the love, commitment and fun you are having along the way as you celebrate life and each other.

 

You are truly an inspiration of kindred spirits and love.

 

It is with great regrets that we cannot attend.

 

We send you our love and best wishes;

 

Our hearts and spirits are with you and we fully support you on your new journey together.

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Inspiring Camp Spirit

Butterfly 2 By WLW

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

 

One counselor shouts encouragement to Lee as she pushes his wheelchair on the pavement in a spirograph motion.  A smile illuminates across Lee’s face as he watches the artwork he’s creating with sidewalk chalk that’s fastened to his footrests.  He laughs as he shouts faster, left, right, bigger, bigger, bigger!

 

Every eye is now captivated by Lee’s excitement, as campers and counselors from the nature trail to the playscape move closer. Creating a circle of encouragement around him.  Every person is clapping and shouting, “Go Lee, go!”

 

Although Lee moves around using a wheelchair, his contagious smile and boasting pride show he’s just like any other kid at summer camp.  He’s having fun, learning, growing and developing a sense of belonging – he’s included.

 

Lee has attended camp for more than a decade. Last year his mother said, “No other camp in our area provides this level of safety and inclusion.  I worry about what will happen to Lee, if something happens to me.  I am hopeful, because Lee’s not just attending camp. He’s building a community and support network of life-long friends.”

 

*Name and other details are disguised to preserve confidentiality.

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Pondering the path of perseverance and leadership

Angel 2 - Back

Yesterday, I celebrated my Aunt Ella’s 93rd Birthday.  She is a humble woman who cared for her family during the great depression, the industrial revolution, and now the era of an ever-changing service industry.

As I reflected on Aunt Ella’s perseverance and path in life, I also thought about some other leaders that I know who are mentors, coaches and play a role in ensuring employees grow, develop and stay engaged in their work. Not always an easy task.

I had no idea one of the Interns I laid off, and later rehired, would be speaking at a conference; and he did not know I would be in the audience.  Yet, he delivered such a captivating and riveting leadership speech to his peers and State Officials that I had goose bumps, and had to fight back the tears.

This is a small except of K’s speech given at the State House in Boston:  “I had worked at Camp for a couple of summers.  In 2008, we were very aware of the economic crisis and the threat that it posed to our program, and I cannot begin to recall the number of letters that were written to the people who work in this building, pleading for the funding to keep us open. We managed to get through that summer, and, after a long winter of uncertainty, I applied again to Camp.

Things looked bleak as the summer began. To put it succinctly, Wendy let me know the camp did not have funding to hire me. Soon enough, though, I received a call explaining that Camp was being run by Interns and, as luck would have it, a position had become available.  I eagerly accepted the job of Recreation Specialist.”

Five years ago, we were on the cusp of the global economic downturn and my agency merged into another agency that had a new culture and values.

I considered leaving and specializing, but had just come from a staff leadership position in a capital campaign, asking for donor funds.  We had just completed the construction of a new building for our programs; and those programs experienced significant budget cuts.  Ethically, I could not just walk away from our donors who made that building possible, or our program participants.

At the time there was already two development staff working on fund development.  My new development role was solely as a grant writer.  Although I did share that securing grants is not long-term sustainable funding;  I had to seek urgent grant funding for our programs.

In 2009, budget cuts got much worse.  The day before our summer camp opened we lost the state funding that provided financial aid to at-risk campers so they could attend camp, and paid for staff positions.

In my HR role, I was solely accountable to lay off many staff who I knew had great leadership potential based their qualifications, experience, background and aspirations.  That was a very bad day for staff, campers, their families and our donors.

The camp program was then staffed by a State sponsored college intern program. We opened camp, but with less campers and staff. Why?  Because Camp is a loved community program due to our inclusive approach in working with campers with and without disabilities – beautiful children from all walks of life.

The Camp has opened every year since 1975, at a time when children with disabilities had no place to go in the summer and remained at home while their siblings and peers could go to summer camps. When an innovative group of parents and professionals decided to start a summer camp that would include them in the mainstream of traditional youth activities. This model of full-inclusion to learn, grow, and play continues today.

Campers attend camp so parents can work during the summer months.  Every summer parent’s share that Camp helps their child develop skills in positive socialization, increased self-esteem, physical activity, self-control, anger management, and daily living skills.

For me, there is always opportunity to be inspired, learn, grow and change. I’ve been seeking a full-time position to specialize, and when my family can afford it, I do intend to complete the application and testing required for certification.

In June my esteemed full-time development colleague left.  She handled everything in fund development, except grant writing and our very recent shared role in marketing.

Now I am moving away from human resources and grant writing; and falling rapidly forward into fund development.  It is a little daunting because most of the Development Officers I have known, experience very high turnover rates.

Yet, I started down the path of fund development 23+ years ago, as a mom and community volunteer to make a lasting change for good where I work, play and live.

 

(*Ella was my colleague and mentor, who later became my Aunt through marriage.)

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What Inspires Me: The Gift of Friendship

Garden Art By WLW

While spending time in my back yard taking this amateur photo, I reflected on how in college, I not only immersed myself in courses like the business ethics of multi-national corporations and international politics, I also had the opportunity to interact with people from different parts of our shared global community. I liked that because I am not an island of one; no Country is an island of one; we are all part of a global community that spans across our entire world.

For the past 15 years, I have been inspired to continue learning from people in our shared global community. Mostly college-aged employees who take part in a local YMCA that sponsors an international work exchange program.  Every summer, my family and I get to know a couple of these employees.  Because they are so far from home, we host a dinner party at our home, in their honor. They rave about getting a home cooked meal and the gift of mere hospitality, fun, laughter and friendship.

Una and Chris, both from Ireland, met in America through their work at the YMCA.  I cooked a New England-Irish dinner on their behalf with corned beef, onions, potatoes, carrots and cabbage.  When I told Una what was for dinner she asked “is corned beef like ground beef”?  Imagine in a kaleidoscope of different cultures and food, they never had a New England-Irish dinner.  Not until they met me.

Because I often work long hours, the entire meal was cooked in multiple crock pots.  I also cook no fuss meals so I can actually visit with guests. As I was slicing the rather large slab of corned beef, I invited them to watch.  With collegial curiosity, wide and resolute eyes they watched me plate the entire meal.  There were no left overs. We had many laughs and shared many stories.

They have come back to see us a couple of times. When we get together, they do not laugh about the large slab of corned beef, but about the first time they ate boiled onions.

I am inspired by this mere gift of friendship.

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