Several years ago I was asked by a client (Timberland) to join their Serv-a-Palooza. It involved community service projects like building playgrounds and improving parks. It was a huge affair with several hundred people participating. Employees and vendors were bused to a specific site and given an agenda for the job – and it was a full day’s project. It was a fun day of working side by side with people who you just met. At the end of the day, you could see the results of the work. I found the whole event very gratifying. The company’s philanthropic perspective comes from the top, which is why for several years they were designated by the media as a “Best Place to Work” in the Northeast.
Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in the 26th Trek Across Maine for the American Lung Association http://bit.ly/Maineala. It’s a three-day event stretching 180 miles from Sunday River in Bethel to Belfast, with over 2000 participants and 600 volunteers with the goal of raising $2 million (currently at $1.6 million). Trekkers are tasked to raise a minimum of $500 to join in the fun. Unlike last year where it poured solid for more than a day, the weather was stellar and, because of this, everyone was in excellent spirits.
The first leg of the Trek takes you to the University of Maine, Farmington, and the second night ends up at Colby College in Waterville. What I find interesting is both the beauty of the landscape – rivers, lakes and ponds – and the wide diversity of participants. Age groups range from 10 to 70+ years of age. Many of the people I met there have done this event for over 10 years and several were part of a family group.
Although the ride is the primary focus of the event, the post-ride free time is the fun part where you get a chance to meet your fellow Trekkers and volunteers. People are lounging, listening to live entertainment, getting massages, or strolling around the campus. The mood is upbeat and because you are a part of the group, people always open up to you in discussing their career, family and history. It’s an excellent forum for getting to know the culture of the people that make the event a wonderful experience – giving one’s time to support a great cause. At the end of each ride, there are hundreds of people cheering, “Great job!” and clapping for all of the Trekkers as they cross the finish line. It is truly a wonderful feeling!
Having spent almost ten hours in the saddle over the past weekend was a minor sacrifice. Thank you to everyone who supported me and the program. For those leaders who understand value of supporting philanthropic causes, you have my admiration and endorsement.