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An Amazing Couple of Days

August 3, 2007

If there has been an overarching theme in my blog, it would have to be around change. I started writing this blog at a crossroads in my life. I found myself in Seattle after living in Eastern Washington all my life. And now as I approach my third year living in the city, I am amazed how different my life is now as it was that fateful Labor Day weekend when Justin and I packed everything I owned into a u-haul and headed for the coast.

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. My last day at Business Week was on a Sunday and I started at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute (PNRI) the next day. Whether it was by design or on accident, they threw me into the fire. The annual fundraising event for PNRI was less than three weeks away – 300 guests, a quarter million dollars at stake and nearly 400 bottles of wine. And there was no formal orientation. They asked me to get things done and I had to figure it out.

The girl who I am replacing has worked at the event the last two years. And Tia has been amazing at it. I cannot even describe how much work there is to do for a fundraiser of this magnitude. Every detail needs to be planned and every potential fuck up has to be thought through. The goal is to make the guest have a seamless experience and thankfully, this is eased by the amount of wine that flows during the evening.

If you haven’t gathered yet, our annual event is focused around wine. The auction packages include nice bottles of wine and there is a wine tasting game. Winemakers from Woodinville to Walla Walla participate in the planning of this event, pour wine for the guests and they always tell us that this is their favorite annual event. The most expensive bottle of wine during the evening was a mini bottle of wine (I forget the name right now) but it was valued at $200 for a mini bottle.

I was solely in charge of guest registration and payment. And this was terrifying to me. Not only have I never done this event before I was 14 days new to the organization by event night. But it went well. We raised $255,000 for diabetes research. The volunteers were happy. I wore a headset and the guests needed taxis. But hearing the testimonials from parents with two little girls with type one diabetes was heartbreaking. Their father, Ted, was talking about how his parents suffered from diabetes and how diabetes can skip a generation – which it did for their family. Ted escaped the disease but it was passed down to his daughters. He spoke about the survivor’s guilt he had and broke down tears while giving making his remarks. It was his remarks that reminded me of why I got into the nonprofit world. Why I wanted to make a real difference. Why I wanted to make change.

I was exhausted after the event. It was 12:30 a.m. when I finished loading my car at Newcastle. Tia, Shawn (lead volunteer) and I took an open bottle of nice wine and sat on the terrace that overlooks the city. From our vantage point Newcastle, you can see all of downtown Seattle and Bellevue. You can see the moonlight reflecting off the sound. The stars shined bright and other than the soft sound of the sprinklers, it was completely quiet. The city looked so small from up there. We sat there drinking wine until a security guard encouraged us to leave at 1:00 a.m. Experiences like these change you somehow. I cannot explain it. So often in our lives, we are caught up in the shit and the drama. And after you finish something like this, you gain perspective. And you realize how much of the drama doesn’t matter.

Scientists at PNRI don’t think we will have a cure for diabetes in our lifetime. They say there is too much they still don’t understand. Too many mysteries. But I know that Ted believes his daughters will see a cure. And I hope they do too.

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