Lessons for my daughter : charity and wildlife conservation with Hope
Several months ago I was presented an award for "workplace excellence" by the Nanaimo Chamber Of Commerce (something I am extremely proud of). In the days leading up to the awards ceremony I got to thinking: What is it that makes us a great place to work? How can we make sure we capture what it is we are doing and continue to do it to ensure we are a great place to work? Most importantly, how can we DO MORE!
It was then that I came up with the idea to launch a unique charity program leading up to our REW Summit and celebration of our 10th anniversary. This charity program was unique because we included both the staff and our community in the selection process for worthy candidates.
You can read about the whole idea in my previous REW Giving Back Post but here is the general idea:
- Staff write a blog post or facebook post nominating a local charity, explaining what they do, and how the staff is wanting to help (Melissa wrote a fantastic entry for the Nananimo Child Development Center and was our fist winner!)
- Real Estate Webmasters then contributes $100 dollars every day for an entire month
- Staff do their best to promote their charity to the community by sharing, getting likes, tweeting and grass roots footwork & dialling campaigns.
- Supporters are driven to the office REW Facebook page and votes are counted based on likes, shares, and comments. At the end of each month leading up to the Summit a winner is chosen based on most votes.
- The Staff member is then presented with the opportunity to donate the whole months collective donations, a minimum $3,000 to their successful campaigns charity.
A so for 3 months straight leading into the Summit I watched as staff lobbied for the charities of their choice and for 3 straight months ALL CHARITIES received amazing exposure and awareness even those that did not win the final contests.
The final contest awards went to:
- The Nanaimo Child Development Center: Assisting and support children with extra developmental needs.
- Camp Imadene: Raised enough funds to send ALL children who needed sponsorship to summer camp.
- Red Shirt Foundation: In the wake of the heartbreaking shootings at a local Nanaimo Mill, this foundation aims to raise awareness for workplace violence.
I also saw how much joy it brought to the winners (both REW and Charity staff). I heard stories of how the money would be spent and how much good it could do. I heard genuine laughter from children who "just wanted to go to camp". It is because of this, I have decided that a part time charity program meant to celebrate our great staff and their 10 years of service is just not enough. I have decided that charity (both creating awareness and giving back) need to be a full time part of my life.
But what was my charity?
I didn't really want to compete locally against my staff in a "for my staff" event as it would not have been fair so I decided that I would simply pick my own charity, not based on a contest submission but on personal merits. Something that was close to home, something that I could do with my family and be proud of.
There were a lot of ideas I had swimming around in my head along with a million other things (like always) but one of the things that was top of mind was my daughter Ariyah's year end trip. Every year we plan a family trip after she gets out of school. She ALWAYS picks the zoo because she loves animals so much. For the past several years we have gone and been "trainers for a day" at the Honolulu or San Diego Zoo, we have played with baby belugas and fed blind walruses at Sea World - you know, animal stuff!
I have no doubt in my mind that my daughter will end up being a
veterinarian, zoo keeper, SPCA volunteer or as she often says run
an animal rescue center like Hope Swinimer from her favourite TV
show, Hope For Wildlife. If you've
never seen Hope For Wildlife or you are interested in learning more
about it - you can visit http://www.hopeforwildlife.net -
Hope is an amazingly kind and dedicated woman who volunteers her
time (after her day job running the Halifax pound) taking care of
wounded and sick animals. She is a true inspiration for thousands,
including my beloved Daughter Ariyah.
Anyways back to my story: Where was I? Ah yes, my charity and Ariyah's trip - both were top of mind. So there we were, Ariyah, Kristin and I. We were watching Hope For Wildlife on Oasis HD as we often do right before Ariyah's bedtime (a particularly sad episode involving a deer named Bluenose that had our entire house balling our eyes out).
After the show we were talking about it - Kristin and I were explaining to Ariyah about how sometimes even Hope can't save every animal. There were politics involved, and the animal had imprinted on humans and was a danger according to the government and had to be put down - very heavy stuff for a 7 year old.
So there I was, big tough dad pretending that I hadn't just been crying, trying to help my daughter NOT feel sad and talking about all the great things Hope does, and all the animals she DOES save and then it hit me (rather I opened my big mouth) - I found myself saying to Ariyah (still trying to make her feel better) - would you like to go see Hope? Maybe we could go see if we could help and perhaps make a donation. Of course at the time I had NO IDEA that such a thing was possible, and I thought to myself right afterwards oh no Morgan, you better make this happen or you're up the creek!
SERIOUSLY DAD!!! YOU'RE THE BEST DAD EVER!!!!! (She thinks I can do anything)
And so I said cautiously.... ummm.... well, I'll tell you what - I'll email her right now and ask if maybe we can come out for a visit. YOU HAVE HER EMAIL?!!!!! (We all know I didn't, but she doesn't need to know that, just like she doesn't need to know that I don't know Santa and can't facebook him her presents list) - What I did have was the website and a contact link, and so I gave it a shot.
"Hello Hope and staff,
is Morgan Carey and my family and I are huge fans of the show and
would like to come visit some time this summer. We are in British
Columbia so it would be quite a trip, but I think it would be well
worth it for my daughter to have a chance to visit and perhaps even
help out around the center for a day or two (she is
If you do allow volunteering visits we would love to visit and are happy to make a donation to the center as well (we would do that anyways)
Please let me know what options are available to make this visit an extra special event for my daughter that will surely have an impact for the rest of her life.
Morgan (And Ariyah & Kristin) Carey
Fellow animal lovers"
It turns out that Ariyah only being 7 is not allowed to volunteer (you must be 18 due to very sick, dangerous animals etc - totally understandable) - I was kind of sad that Ariyah could not participate in the way I knew she would want to - I asked if there was anything we could do to make it "extra special" for my daughter and you know what I received back?
"Hope would love to meet your daughter and could even give you the tour herself if she is not already booked"
Are you kidding me?!!!! WE GET TO MEET HOPE FOR WILDLIFE!!!
I mean here on our little island in Nanaimo Hope is a true celebrity - everyone in Canada knows Hope. I could not believe what I was reading.
So that night I showed Ariyah the email and we booked our flights - 5 days, clear across Canada from Vancouver Island to Halifax, Nova Scotia (which btw is about as FAR as you can go West to East and stay in North America). DAD YOU'RE THE BEST DAD EVER!!!!!!! (No pressure Dad.... yikes)
A life changed: I truly believe this..... Thank you HOPE
We have just returned from our trip to Hope For Wildlife and I can honestly say that I think this experience will have an impact on Ariyah for the rest of her life.
You are truly her hero (and mine too!)
From the moment you came down the stairs into the lobby to meet Ariyah (and immediately gave her a hug) to the final hug goodbye you showed my daughter what it was like to truly love something.
You took so much time out of your day to show us your entire facility. Explained every animal and told their story. You smiled, you shared and you gave us more than we could have ever expected... You're not at all like the kind woman we see on TV every week
YOU ARE BETTER!
I wanted to take the time to write this story to you Hope so that you know just how much you have impacted my families life.
You helped me teach my daughter about Charity and caring for all gods creatures. You showed her that it doesn't matter if you're on TV, or just doing your best to help as a part time volunteer.. we're ALL able to make a difference
So again, my family thanks you Hope and we will certainly take you up on your invitation to come back next year - I cannot think of a place any of us would rather be, or better company to share it with.
Love Morgan, Kristin & Ariyah
PS - here are some pictures from our visit we thought we would share :)