The Aftermath of CreateAthon

It’s late morning the day after CreateAthon.  As I sit here, looking at the empty office around me, I can’t help but feel a little emotional.  (Okay, maybe it’s because I’m slap happy and haven’t had any sleep, but, you know…)  The past 24 hours felt three days long and also flew by in an instant.  It sort of reminds me of Christmas morning when I was a kid.  I’d anticipate the day for so long and then, finally here, it would go by in a blur.

Yep, that’s how CreateAthon is for me.

When I started Think Tank in 2006 I started with a philosophy of giving back to my community.  If you know me, you know I’m a huge believer in karma – so much so I wear a bracelet that says “karma” as a daily reminder in my life.  I never dreamed I would find an organization like the fantastic people at Riggs Partners in Columbia, SC would come into my life.Our CreateAthon Team

Riggs created the now nationwide CreateAthon program in 1998 and expanded it to other agencies in 2002.  At Think Tank we were lucky to find out about the program from another participating agency in 2009 and quickly signed up to be their partner in the Missouri and Illinois regions.

Five years later it is, hands down, my favorite time of the year at Think Tank.

I know it sounds cheesy (and, yeah, I’m super emotional from no sleep and too many Doritos over the past many hours), but Createathon does more for me than it ever does for the nonprofits we help.  It teaches me lessons.  It humbles me.  It makes me a better person.

When these nonprofits come in and share their stories I can’t help but be amazed by them.  Their passion, their commitment, their dedication is truly awe-inspiring.  It makes me realize how lucky I am and how my small problems in life are nothing compared to what some people are facing.

This year was no different.

As I listened to people like Marc and Peggy Mitchell of the Riverbend Down Syndrome Association talk about what it means to have a child with Down Riverbend Down Syndrome AssociationSyndrome and how proud he was to watch his son, a senior in high school, be crowned Prom King last week it brings tears to my eyes.

I listened to Gail and Dan Marchbanks of Kellsie’s Hope Foundation talk about their beautiful daughter, Kellsie, and her battle with cancer.  They started their foundation as a way to help and support kids with cancer and their families as a way to honor Kellsie’s memory and I couldn’t help but get choked up.

I sat fascinated as Leonard Sonnenchein of the World Aquarium talked about the importance of education and conservation and how they were working hard internationally to promote preservation and sustainability.  In fact, he is meeting with the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, this week and giving several speeches through India as World Aquarium is the only aquarium or zoo in the world to be a United Nations organization.  (Can you say, WOW?)

Edwardsville Children's Museum ShootMy heart strings were tugged as McKenzie Breihan and her board at the Edwardsville Children’s Museum told us that this valuable resource to local kids and families is getting ready to close its doors if we didn’t find a way to raise funds and help them save the museum in less than three months time.

I sat enraptured listening to Donna Bardon and Cindy Reinhardt of the Madison County Historical Museum talk about the importance of preserving history for our community and what it means to honor that history.

But that’s not all.

Last night brought a new twist to the usual stories I hear from CreateAthon.

Last night my entire team was brought the most amazing home-cooked dinner of steak, vegetables, sweet potatoes, french bread and fruit from someone who the Riverbend Down Syndrome Association has helped.  He was so moved that Think Tank wanted to help an organization who had helped his family so much he felt compelled to go out of his way to show us his appreciation.

As he sat down the feast he prepared for us (along with cutlery and all the fixings) he told us how the Riverbend Down Syndrome Association had been a Dinner at CreateAthongodsend to he and his wife when their daughter was unexpectedly born with Down Syndrome three years ago.  Emotionally, he went on to tell us how the organization gave his family resources, hope and support when they didn’t know where to turn.  All of us stood here, mesmerized by his story. It took everything in me not to bear hug him at that moment.

Watching CreateAthon come full circle right before my very eyes in that moment was powerful.  He gave all of us more than sustenance, he gave us perspective.

Every year CreateAthon does this for me and to all of us at Think Tank.  Sometimes we are helping people who have life threatening illnesses, sometimes we are helping kids, sometimes we are helping our community, sometimes we are helping the environment.  But, more than anything, we are helping ourselves by seeing there is something larger than all of us sitting in our corporate offices outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

Don’t get me wrong.  CreateAthon isn’t a Sarah McLachlan commercial for the ASPCA.  We aren’t all sitting around and singing kumbaya as we hold hands in a circle.  No, sir!  CreateAthon is a helluva lot of fun.

3 Minute Record SpinningYesterday we had visitor after visitor that brought us things like Starbucks, snacks, fresh veggies and fruits, well wishes and so much more.  We had one of my dear friends, a yoga teacher, stop by and conduct an entire yoga class for the Ninjas.  We had one of the best DJs in St. Louis come in and spin vinyl for us until the wee hours of the morning to keep us moving and awake.  We had virtual high-fives all day and all night long from our other CreateAthon partners across the United States. We had more fun than anyone should ever have at work. (I mean, seriously, just check out our plethora of photos! Uh, yeah, there’s nothing boring about CreateAthon.)

But, today, as I sit here in the quiet office looking at the empty desks and dark monitors I can’t help but get nostalgic about yesterday and CreateAthon events in the past.  Every year it fills my heart, renews my soul, and lights a fire in me.

I know what we did for these nonprofits isn’t life shattering – but it made a difference.  And, like someone once said to me when I was a little girl, it isn’t about the day you were born or the day you die – it’s about the dash in between the numbers.

Thank you, CreateAthon for making my dash just a little more fulfilling.