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“If you build it, they will come.” Experiencing one of the best movie lines in history, we lived the dream when Gratitude Generation hosted our official launch party and so many of you came. Hundreds of people filed into the Highwood Rec Center with bags of toy donations, and with open hearts and wallets to celebrate our launch and support our mission of creating opportunities for education and service that inspire gratitude.
It wasn’t 70 degrees and sunny (one of our only big attendance worries after a painfully long winter!), it wasn’t nice enough or dry enough on the fields for sports, and it wasn’t even a deterrent to our amazing community when it dropped to 36 degrees and started snowing!
For those of you who attended, thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. And for those of who you couldn’t be there or want to remember the fun, I’ll construct the field of dreams here for you.
In some ways, we began planning this event six months ago. After all, the initial seed of this organization was to plan an event where kids could come donate their toys and experience the joy of giving. When the concept of the Gratitude Generation grew from that seed, the single event became an official launch party, with so many other great events as a lead-up and introduction to our mission. So on April 15, 2018, when our exec board, our families, our incredible kids’ board and a handful of huge-hearted volunteers unloaded car after car of supplies and donations, we brought the gym to life and the seed bloomed.
The junior kids’ board didn’t stop hustling as they greeted family after family, taking their toy donations and sorting them by type to be distributed that very afternoon. The impact from the toy collection was huge! We collected 30 huge cases of toys to be donated to four regional organizations including the Ronald McDonald House, the Weinberg Senior Center, the Cook County Juvenile Court System and Sue Ghandi Sai Seva Empowerment for Women.
There was our Gratitude Gift assembly line – a project at the heart of our mission, and one ongoing to help support a growing number of organizations who will distribute our gifts to families in need. With great enthusiasm, people filled bags with cake mix, candles, napkins and a few fun treats – the energy and commitment were so great that we tackled the 100 bags planned for the day in no time. (We may have even given some little ones a chance to fill gifts by… unpacking a few! We had to ensure the message of service was delivered to each and every person who participated!)
Thanks to the incredible generosity of people donating gift cards to big retailers, each bag has a gift card to buy essentials, including eggs and oil, and a homemade birthday card made at the party. A big portion of the Gratitude Gifts filled were already delivered to CASA THIS week! Again, immediate impact!
Of course, expressing gratitude to someone in your life who makes a difference is core to what we preach, so at the party were incredibly beautiful postcards to fill out and deliver right there on the spot, or in the mail. Kids and adults were taking moments of conscious gratitude, and one junior board member made her mom’s day by slipping a postcard in her back pocket! She’s grateful for me and took a moment to say it – the best feeling ever for BOTH of us!
The gym was rockin’ with the help of Bizar Entertainment (thank you!) and kids were running around and gigging with FSA’s one-and-only Coach Ed playing Minute-to-Win-It games (thank you!). Smiles were big and giggles were loud, that’s for sure!
And, of course, there were opportunities to support our mission through an incredible Silent Auction and Surprise Balloons, which meant that generous attendees paid for a balloon not even knowing what prize they’d receive. And, surprise! The balloons sold out in the first 40 minutes of the event! Thank you, thank you!
And our Silent Auction was a HUGE success, as everyone scrambled around to get fun prizes and good deals – even the kiddos got in on the action, as more than a few parents approached the check-out table with their kid’s winning bid sheets in hand. Thank you, thank you to the amazing community of vendors who supported us with donations, and thank you, thank you to all of you who bid on items. We’ve got many great ideas in the hopper for service and education programs, and none of it is possible without funding.
The energy was palpable in the foyer with Taste Buds Kitchen decorating cupcakes (thank you!), amazing postcards for sale to continue the gratitude practice at home (we have more to sell, if you loved them), and the kids’ board was stationed there introducing the community to the “Glow Movement.”
The kids’ board created beautiful beaded bracelets with representative colors to our values – gratitude, generosity, strength and trust – and they glow! That way, when you’re wearing them, buying them for others or when you see them around town, you’ll remember to practice gratitude and feel the mental- and physical-health glow that comes from being grateful.
There was outstanding face painting, snacks to fuel the fun, and overall, the event was something for everyone. The energy in the space was so positive, so encouraging, so inspiring – the gratitude flowing was incredible!
The launch party meant so much to us and this community. It meant that what we’ve been working tirelessly to build is resonating. It meant that there is a need in our community (and our world) to provide families with kids of all ages opportunities to learn the practice of gratitude and service, and to help make the world a happier, safer place. It meant that if we build it, you will come.
Grateful Girl, Jill Rivkin