When our friends at the United Way Association of South Carolina told us to submit Camp iRock for the Riley Institute WhatWorks SC Award for Excellence in Education I thought, “Sure, why not. How hard could it be?”
I’ll be honest, we hadn’t really thought about entering Camp iRock in such a competitive and prestigious competition. But the questionnaire was straightforward and we had the information readily available from writing so many grant proposals.
Lots and lots of grant proposals. Oodles of grant proposals for Camp iRock!
The application was due on a Sunday, which was pretty weird, but being the overachievers that we are, it was submitted on the Friday before. My colleague, Karen Culley, and I went home to enjoy a weekend free from the looming deadline of yet another proposal.
It is a well-known fact that I am addicted to my phone. I never turn it off and check my email incessantly, all weekend long. I am not sure why I do this because I rarely get anything other than ads. On Saturday, an email popped up from the Riley Institute …”Hey, I can’t download your documents.”
I called Karen and we raced to the office to resubmit. It was VERY nice of him to reach out because if he hadn’t, we would have missed the deadline.
I pretty much forgot about the Riley Institute because it was summer and I was spending every waking moment at Camp iRock … engrossed in Camp iRock “awesomeness.” There is nothing better than watching children discover the joy and power of reading.
Karen got the email, “Congratulations, you’ve made top ten. Please complete this form and return.” Heck, this wasn’t a form, it was a really HARD questionnaire. They wanted to know what national or other research prompted us to create Camp iRock. How did we establish our goals and were we meeting or exceeding them? How do we evaluate our success? How do we use our relationships to maximize our resources and finally, is Camp iRock sustainable?
We divided up the questions between us and hammered out the proposal. Done and submitted one full week early. I even emailed their point person to make SURE he received our information. “We did. You’re amazing.” Yay for us. Except on Saturday, the day before it was due, he called me. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your file is corrupt.”
Really? Back to the office we flew to rewrite the entire thing. We made the deadline by about 5 minutes.
Just for curiosity’s sake, I asked him how many applications he received. “Oh, about a hundred.” ONE HUNDRED! I don’t know why, but I didn’t really hold out much hope that we would even be considered.
About a month later, we received word that Camp iRock was one of three finalists for this amazing award. SCETV traveled from Columbia to Pickens County and created a wonderful video to be debuted at the awards luncheon.
On Oct. 24, representatives from United Way, the School District of Pickens County, the Pickens County YMCA, our funders, our elected officials, and donors, trekked to Columbia and were honored at a celebration of public education. When the MC recognized the stellar group of semi-finalists, I FINALLY realized what a huge deal this award really is!
It is such validation for what our community has accomplished by working together. We received a monetary award and a beautiful crystal that Dick Riley presented to us. The award was so heavy, my arm was sore from carrying it around all afternoon.
Another extra special award is that we get to keep the video that SCETV produced. It’s on our website, www.uwpickens.org. Check it out.
Let’s face it, the “winners” are the Camp iRock children and their families who spent their entire summer focusing on reading. The ability to read, to have pride in themselves and fall in love with school. That is THE PRIZE!