It’s funny how the little things, almost afterthoughts, can take root and grow. Three years ago as I frantically attended to last-minute details on the eve of our first Donor Fest event (a crazy-a** wild idea I dreamed up for the biggest-ever blood drive in our community), I hit a snag. Limited edition t-shirts were signature to the event: we had white ones for donors, red for staff and blue for volunteers. Only I didn’t plan for any under-18 volunteers and didn’t order small blue shirts.
Earlier that day – 6:00 a.m. early – my kids talked me into letting them come along for the day to help with set-up. Serious “I have to go to work” mommy said it would be hard to get everything done with children around. Fun “let’s color some pictures” mommy said life was short and the risk limited. Fun mommy won, and off we went.
My kids worked their tails off all day, folding t-shirts, setting up displays, delivering things from one end of the arena to another, and more. By the end of the day they had also decided on their jobs for the next day – event day. Some of my colleagues who had children volunteered their young wards as well, and suddenly we had an army of eager and able young helpers. With no t-shirts.
Never short on crazy-a** ideas, I dispatched myself to Michael’s, bought red and blue tie-dye supplies, and tie-dyed 20 size small white shirts for the child brigade. The next day, from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., young smiles and able hands brought an idea to life. That day was many things for me; looking back three years later, I realize the most important was the realization that serious mommy and fun mommy could function as one.
In year two of Donor Fest, tie-dye shirts became a fundraiser and commemorative item for our financial underwriters (who knew people would give us money?), in addition to being the now-standard kid volunteer uniform. The aftermath of that event found my husband, children, staff, friends and me tie-dying 200 shirts on our front porch, as demand outstripped supply. Honestly, who needs ropes-course team-building exercises when you can have fuchsia-dye-spattering, hose-splashing, I-can’t-believe-you-mixed-those-colors bonding ?
The year, as Donor Fest grew from a day to a full week, tie-dying shirts took on a life of its own, now a Saturday festival activity for everyone to enjoy. As an unexpected rainstorm hit 10 minutes before the scheduled finale , a woman drove her car snug up to the art tent, cracked her window and asked, “could you please dye just one more for me?” (As if I could make that up?) And today, three weeks after this year’s record-breaking event, my family and I played with the hose as we rinsed the dozens of shirts we’d made as thank-you gifts for event sponsors. An afterthought, now fully grown, and seriously fun.