Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walking The Walk- Stories from 'Walk Season"

The term "Walk Season" itself sounds kind of funny if you don't work for a charity like the Arthritis Foundation that hosts a 5K Walk. Especially for our charity when we encourage walking, exercising or moving 30 minutes everyday in some way to keep arthritis pain at bay. However, I'd bet my first born child that if you were never employed to coordinate a walk, at least you've been to one or volunteered at one. There seems to be one on every weekend for every cause under the sun! It's become a cultural fund-raising phenomenon!

"Walk Season" for me is the period of time that begins about three months before a walk fund-raiser and includes the week or two after as you work to expedite sponsor, donor, and volunteer thank yous and wrap-up the registration administration details. It's a period of time that can be excruciatingly busy/crazy for staff and volunteers alike leading up to the walk. And then, after 4 short hours of hundreds of people descending on you with smiles, bouncing happy children with painted faces, paparazzi like photos, cheers, laughs, hugs and moving stories......and then suddenly as quickly as everyone descended....they go home. It's all over in less than half a day!

So now, about a month after our walks, I'm left feeling like I've lost part of my family because I'm not seeing my volunteer committee weekly. They do become like a second family, good friends that work for free to help support your mission because it's important to them or they just want to make the world a better place. I don't think all of them realize how much they mean to us individually but especially as a whole.

We were very happy with the results of "Let's Move Together Walk" in Lakeland and Orlando! I couldn't have loved either of my committees more if humanly possible. So many fun stories, sub events, memories.

They pulled of miracles and made us laugh at the office (Especially the 'Sell the Hays"-sorry, inside joke for most of you) and consistently touched us with their kindness and understanding our humanity as employees on a small staff of two in a crazy economy. And our honorees! They shared their personal stories and did everything possible to get attention for the walk. Our honorees were just amazing. The walk goes by so quickly and unless you are really reading every e-mail, you can easily miss the most important part of the walk, in my opinion, the heart of the walk, and that is the stories of the people we are honoring.

This year, I made it my personal mission/tribute and a gesture to honor the 6 individuals that allowed us to honor them, by telling their story in written form. All of them agreed and I went to work. initially I was sad because time was slipping away and I wasn't going to be able to finish all of them until my CREATOR sent me an EARTHLY ANGEL, Lynn Knott, one of my Parrot Head of Central Florida friends, came to me and was in between jobs in the NURSING/MEDICAL field. Lynn I hope also had a beautifulk experience writing two of the stories but one of them was even published in the BALDWIN PARK MAGAZINE since the subject committee member Donna Zelahy lives there.

So we have these 6 stories that we really enjoyed telling, and in the process we grew to know these people as friends and volunteers. And it was an honor!

If you can, you would honor me by reading their stories and realizing that there are 50 million Americans that live with arthritis, and 300,000 of them are children. These are our friends, our neighbors, our families. 1 in 3 people in Central Florida live with the illness.



And then right now go and mark these two dates on your calendar if you live in Central Florida. It's the next Arthritis Foundation Family Reunion and we need EVERY ONE of you there. And this year we are finally giving you almost a year notice!

May 12th, 2012-Polk County/Lakeland Let's Move Together Arthritis Walk
May 19th, 2012-Central Florida/Orlando Let's Move Together Arthritis Walk

Lastly, if you are one of the honorees or volunteer committee members from either of our walks, please know that I already do miss seeing you! Let's stay in touch! Certainly, no matter where you live in Central Florida, our next Arthritis Foundation Central Region Family Reunion happens Saturday December 17th in Baldwin Park at the 4th Annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk. And if you just worked your butt off fund-raising at the walk, just pay the $25 admission for the shirt, food and fun and don't worry about fund-raising! Don't burn yourselves out but do please try to come to both of our events. There's a chair around our figurative event table for each of you and when you aren't there, we're still having fun....but miss you being part of it!

Peace, Love and Music
Tony in Orlando

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MOM”S THE WORD!-CARLA DYER “The Love Shack Series Blog 3”

Thursday, February 12, 2011 My mother was the second person to step over the threshold of my new house, THE LOVE SHACK. I remember thinking how odd it was that my mom and my great friend & realtor GREG ELLIOTT’s mom STEPHANIE FLANNIGAN (My second mom) both seemed so much more enthused to see it then I did. They were enthusiastically overflowing with ideas and possibilities and I was freaking out. I felt like slipping them both a sedative.

As everyone’s musings kind of blended into one sound around me I walked through this house which I had no emotional attachment to and out to the backyard, there stood a yellow Tabebuia Tree in full bloom. It was a sign (At least I made it one) that I should buy this house and watch it grow as long as possible. Just the evening before, I had seen one on my hour walk and had to stop in my tracks as the golden light from the sun struck this magnificent yellow Tabebuia tree on the side of the road. Now one evening later here’s the sunset’s golden light focused directly on this small tree in the back of a house that was the right price and two streets from my 74 year old mother. Do I need a sign?

Moving closer to my mom has been nothing but a blessing for both of us. Our only issue is sometimes we are too much alike and the stubborn streaks collide. But we always work it out. We even try to eat dinner together at each other’s houses and watch a movie at least once a week. She even came over at 3 a.m. to watch the Lunar Eclipse with me, How could I not love my mom??

I am the youngest of my mom’s 8 kids, 7 of which are boys. She just had her 37th grandkid. (That includes the great ones). Yet she lives a world away from them and only gets to see most of them on special occasions. So here in Orlando it’s just me and my older sister Patty. My mom taught me about LOVE, and how to LOVE. That’s been the greatest gift she could have ever given me. It’s a big subject with a lot of nuances as there are many kinds of LOVE. And while sometimes because we’re both so emotional the lessons come a little harder for both of us. Despite that I am so glad to have had her as my teacher, and now as an adult, to continue to learn with her together. We teach each other things all the time.

Many people don’t know that my mother is the reason I took my current job at the Arthritis Foundation. . That and the fact that I was able to work from home at first. She has osteoarthritis like many of our mother and father or grand-parents. I thought to myself "I have worked for children’s causes most of my life, why not help a cause that’s for the elderly for a change?" That’s when to both of our surprises we found out what so many people still don’t know…KIDS GET ARTHRITIS TOO. I mean, I’m media friendly, charity friendly yet I have never heard it. Now after 3 years I know why. No one understands how serious it can be and on rare occasion even fatal for children.

After working in non-profit for so many years, most of my friends are volunteers I met at work, or at least good friends I’ve begged to volunteer! I worked with some of the best and unfortunately some I’ve even had to bless and release. But this article is about my mom. And let me tell you what a great volunteer she is!

Not only has she captained a team at my last two Arthritis Walks (The Publix PainKillers) and doubled their fund-raising in one year, she’s also served food at every one of my 3 Jingle Bell Runs. She’s there with a big smile making sure that everyone of the 700 people gets fed as well as possible. She’s always been there when I need her as a volunteer!

Last year my mom was only one of 4 regulars on my Arthritis Walk Committee along with our amazing 2010 chairperson Pamela Haas, as well as committee members Wilma Sue Williams, and Debi DeGailler. This year no one has stepped forward to offer to chair the event so my mom has offered. She’s stepping up to the task to help kids and adults with arthritis and believe me she’s passionate about it. With her leadership I think this year The Publix Painkillers may become a top contender along with last year’s number one team the Wal-Mart Walkers. To be honest, we yearn for more corporate teams and have very few. Most of our teams are family based. It would be nice for some companies to show they care about an illness that affects 1 in 3 Floridians!

More importantly, I get to work with my mom at this time in her life where she is unsure of her own strength at times as she declines physically. The next several months is going to be a hard yet beautiful journey together with our other amazing volunteers in an attempt to bring out at least 500 people to our Arthritis Walk. We will even be shooting a music video. Won’t you consider coming, you’ll get to meet my mom, Carla Dyer-the 2011 Arthritis Walk Orlando Volunteer Chairperson. In fact, if you are interested in joining or helping the committee in any way, we have an open meeting Thursday, Feb. 10th at 6 p.m. at the Veranda Bed and Breakfast in Thornton Park. If you can come call my Volunteer Director Mariel Armitage at 407-208-1766 or e-mail her by 5 p.m. so we know how much pizza and soda to get for this introductory meeting. By the way, mom is making a Vegetarian Pasta with a ton of amazing vegetables on whole wheat rotini and Sweet Potato Casserole. First come first serve on that stuff.  I’ll be there at 5 p.m. meeting starts at 6 p.m. Come early if you want to talk and eat while we set up the place.

And to close the article, while I love THE LOVE SHACK more than I ever thought would be possible, my mom taught me that home is where the heart is. And part of the reason I love it so much is because she’s so nearby. Mom, I wouldn’t wish for any other mom in the world if I could! Remember…to grow, one MUST experience growing pains. I’m so grateful to have this chance to watch you grow and use your true light of love to shine on the committee and everyone you talk to about the cause of arthritis. I love you!

Featured Song: You Were There (And I never had to say a word) –Performed by Rebecca Fisher From the CD “Let’s Move Together” to benefit the Arthritis Foundation Florida Chapter.


Featured Quote: “A mother understands what a child does not say.” -Jewish proverb