MADD Conference Breakfast
Monday morning what seemed like at least 500 to 600 conference attendees all came together for the first time for breakfast. Yulee and I were seated at a table with MADD staffers and board members from Tennessee and New Jersey as well as my own Washington State teammate Amy Ezzo. I heard the personal stories of board members Brad Bulla who lost his son and Steven Benvenisti who is himself a victim survivor.
Then MADD CEO Debbie Weir shared statistics on MADD’s most recent accomplishments and the new strategic plan with the entire room. Then Gabrielle Abbate, Leslie Watson, David Pinkster, Bryan Doleshel and I were invited on stage as a part of a presentation called MADD Champions to share what our respective chapters have been able to achieve over the last few years.
This would be the first of many, many times during the conference that I was both intimidated and inspired. Some of the MADD chapters are so large and have a number of full-time, paid staff. These chapters are able to do so much, touch so many lives, help so many people, and facilitate so much real change in their states. Their stories made me feel so small and inadequate. After listening to their achievements I was almost in tears when it was my turn to speak. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to fake confidence during the 5 to 10 minutes that were set aside for me to talk. So when it was my turn I came clean, shed a few tears, and just told everyone in the room about how I got involved in MADD, the state of our organization when I joined, and how my best friend had said ‘God is trying to tell you something’ and encouraged me to do what I could to help.
I told them how our group of volunteers had decided that our number one goal had to be to raise enough money to hire a full-time paid staffer for our state. I shared with them how we asked KOMO Television and Radio to be our media partner. I talked about how KOMO’s news stories, PSAs, the commercials they created for us, and their sponsorship of our first Walk Like MADD fundraising event had brought our dream to fruition—we had hundreds of walkers and raised over $30,000 so that 8 weeks ago Amy Ezzo was hired.
After breakfast we headed for the workshops. I wanted to attend them all. Ultimately I ended up in the ‘Telling the MADD Story’ workshop that was put on by Nick Ellinger, MADD Vice President of Strategic Outreach and Anna Duerr, MADD’s director of communications. But I was itching to attend some of the other sessions too. So I also snuck into the session on Ignition Interlocks which was run by Debra Coffey of the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers and Carl McDonald who is MADD’s National Law Enforcement Initiatives Manager.
At the break I rushed over to visit some of the conference exhibitors and on my way ran into former board member Michael Boland who said that he enjoyed the MADD Champions panel. Then I had a great conversation with Brian Bolshin of MADD Virgin Drinks, a non-alcoholic beverage company that donates 10% of its profits on MADD. I also met Jenn Godbehere who is the Development Officer for MADD Arizona in the hallway and discovered that we have some mutual friends and discussed how I can help her get them more involved with MADD when I am in Arizona next week for a speaking engagement at a marketing meeting. And I also met Carol McNamee who founded MADD’s Hawaii Chapter and we discussed the possibility of me visiting her office when I am on vacation in Hawaii later this year.