I don't know why I continue to be amazed at the community (and nationwide) support, but you guys knock my socks off every time. Hundreds of you showed up in person and in spirit, and...geez! All I had to do was ask! I can't get over it.
There are a few that went above and beyond to make this event a success, and I have to mention them here.
Allen Strong, my friend and owner of Silvercreek restaurant. I asked Allen if I could schedule the greenhouse for this event, and he handed it over. He also donated the brats, buns, condiments, and sodas. He had staff on hand to set up tables, and hook up my slide show, and pretty much to race around and see that we were taken care of. He hired a musician, Barbara Hamilton, to play for 2 hours of the event. Do not overlook the word donated above. Allen didn't charge us a dime for all of this.
Allen's wife (and also my friend) Nancy Strong (pictured above with Craig Weidert) showed up with her camera, told me to put mine away, and said she'd see that the event was photographically documented. She proceeded to run around, and stand on chairs and make people smile, and then gave me a CD with 150 photos on it.
Urbana's Assistant Chief of Police, Patrick Connolly contacted me early on with offers of help. He spearheaded a drive at the city building. He and his daughter showed up early with boxes of boxes of supplies, and a couple of envelopes with funds collected to help alleviate shipping costs. He stood outside and directed people in, and carried boxes all evening, while his daughter, Kate, worked inside. Though I only met him in person Saturday, I can't imagine not having had him there, helping out.
The Illini Women's Basketball Team contacted me to ask what they could do to help. I can't quite explain what it was like to have them make their entrance, ducking under the doorway and appearing in their sweats, ready to work. Work they did; they filled out address forms, wrote letters, and took their post at the end of our assembly line, sealing and labeling boxes. They gave autographs and posters to the kids, and we put glossies of the team into the boxes. It was a blast having them there.
Champaign Taste blogger Lisa Morgan put our cause on the Human Kinetics intranet, and worked with the warehouse there to save our boxes for us. Boxes might not seem like a big deal, but when you're looking for 100 boxes that meet postal standards of L x W x H of more than 84 but less than 108 inches, the friend that can supply them to you x infinity is quite valuable! Human Kinetics has come to my rescue on more than one occasion, going so far as to tear down the boxes and wheel them to my car for me.
And last but not least, volunteer Jesse Kurylo, showed up a second time to help us out. She was also at the spaghetti dinner. A National Guards(wo)man that was forced to stay home with a knee injury while her comrades were deployed, she says "I can't do nothing while my friends are over there." She showed up early and immediately set about making brilliant decisions while I stood around daftly saying "we hadn't thought this part through yet..." She is a whirlwind, and, I told her, should be paid to volunteer! She left our event to go work at another event. Voluntarily.
I wish I had time to name every single person that helped out, because every effort is worth mentioning. I met a lot of people I've corresponded with via e-mail. I hugged old friends and new ones, and appreciated every single person that showed up, some just to squeeze my hand and say "good luck," before moving on with their day. I appreciate the well wishes and e-mails that rolled in before the event, and so many that came in today, asking "how'd it go?!!"
As I said, I'm not sure why you surprise me. I just love that you bother.
And I'm sure, so will 100 more, in a few weeks when these packages arrive to their final destination.
If you'd like to see all of the photos Nancy took on Saturday night, click here: