Each spring, we celebrate our Impact Advisors family at an annual retreat we refer to as Impact Palooza. This is a very special time of year when we, along with our invited family members and friends, gather together to celebrate our collective accomplishments, share insights, and inspire momentum for the year ahead.
Typically hosted in Scottsdale, Arizona, this was the very first year we hosted Impact Palooza in the Sunshine State of Florida – at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. The weather was beautiful for all three days of our retreat which made some of our Thursday afternoon activity options like golfing, fishing and the eco-tour an ideal way to spend some time outdoors while having tons of fun together.
Our Wednesday evening reception was also hosted outdoors on a large reception lawn that was perfect for hosting the Ritz Crackers jazz band, Selfie Mirror, and the biggest hit of all with everyone in attendance – the “Build an Impact Bear” station. As the organizer of the event, I decided to keep this activity a total surprise…one that would be revealed as our IA family members arrived that evening.
For some history, as we evaluated our options on a community support initiative that could benefit a local Orlando healthcare provider, our focus quickly became something that could benefit children – which led to selecting Florida Hospital for Children as our partner for 2016. Now, back to the reception…
My initial plan was to make a grand announcement at the beginning of the reception, letting everyone know that we were building teddy bears and other stuffed animals for sharing with the patients at the Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando…and then watch everyone run over to start creating their bears, complete with birth certificates and a special message for the child who would receive the bear. As it turned out, I was delayed in getting to the reception by 20 minutes or so and walked in to an incredibly wonderful site. Upon arrival, I looked over at the build-a-bear station to find a very long line of our associates and their guests (about 30 people deep) with everyone most patiently standing in line as they visited with their fellow co-workers and family friends as they made their way to the front of the station, where they could choose their bear and start the building process. With great joy, I simply smiled and thought “well, so much for the grand announcement of what we’re doing this evening for our community impact project!”
As I stood there in amazement of the ever-growing line, one of our associates ran up to me with a huge smile on her face and with great sincerity said, “Michael, I want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to benefit the children at Florida Hospital! As I was building my bear, I held the heart that I was inserting in my hand and blessed it for the child who will receive it.” As I tried my best to hold back a tear that was forming in my eye, I smiled and profusely thanked our wonderful associate for both participating in building a bear and also for sharing her heartfelt gratitude.
The next day, it was off to the hospital to deliver the 150+ bears that were so carefully and thoughtfully created the night before. Three from our IA family would be participating in the delivery process where we would have the opportunity to meet several of the children and hand-deliver some of the bears on the hospital units. As we were talking on the way to the hospital, one comment was, “I hope I don’t get too emotional as we deliver the bears to the kids.” Wanting to comfort my friend and colleague, I quickly replied “I think we will be OK.”
After arriving at the hospital, we were greeted by many of the hospital’s leadership team and immediately had the opportunity to meet a new mother with her very young son who was there to receive one of the bears. He seemed to especially like the stuffed lion with the blue super-hero cape which was a big hit with his mom too.
Then, we moved on to visiting some of the patients upstairs with our first stop being a beautiful little girl named Brook who was enjoying lunch in her room with her grandmother. As we walked in, Brook literally lit up with excitement and reached for the unicorn that my friend Jenny was holding. As Jenny handed the unicorn over, Brook grabbed it and hugged it so hard…as I once again got a tear in my eye and thought “so much for that ‘we will be OK’ as we deliver the bears thought.”
As we finished the delivery process, the staff of the hospital were so gracious and most grateful for our donation. They specifically mentioned how all of the bears and other stuffed animals that were remaining would be shared in the near future to bring joy and happiness to other children receiving their care.
As the car pulled away from the hospital, I paused and reflected on what just happened. With the help of our caring associates and extended Impact family who so lovingly created each of the bears that were just delivered, we experienced the incredible joy associated with the positive IMPACT of giving. What a gift!