On May 16, Nashville held its first-ever Congenital Heart Walk and as I sit here getting ready to start planning for 2016, I find myself reflecting back on this year’s event. I checked the weather app on my phone all week because of the forecast calling for severe storms. In my mind, I pictured this perfect event with sunny weather, news media, record attendance and a smooth, complication-free program and walk.
Want to know something? None of that happened. What did happen that day reminded me of a very valuable lesson, though.
Our day started at 6 a.m. We had to switch our entire set-up to accommodate the impending weather. We originally had this wonderfully spread out setup of games, food, resource tables, and raffles—which were all moved closer to the picnic shelter so we could make the best use of our tents and the amount of covered space.
We anticipated around 150 people with the weather so we thought this change would work just fine and it did for the most part, thankfully. Volunteers arrived and had trouble finding the walk site; it was quickly apparent we should have bought just a few more directional signs. A downpour started mid-morning and I was certain the rain was there to stay.
Although it was wet with light sprinkles here and there, I was wrong on that prediction and very happy about that. By 8 a.m., walk participants began to arrive—between 300 to 350 of them. The police officer said it was the largest turnout for an event he’d ever seen at the park!
Because of the weather, the DJ’s speakers had to stay under his tent. As it turns out, putting a stage and microphone right in front of that equipment doesn’t work too well with sound projection. We had to rearrange the order of our program to accommodate the moments of clear skies and decided to have everyone walk early. That was truly an amazing sight and I’m so glad my husband captured the perfect video of that moment.
We finished out the rest of the event with those left after the walk huddled under the picnic shelter as we gave out raffle prizes, had our guest speakers share their stories, presented awards and revealed the final total.
Out of everything that went wrong that day, the thing that probably made me most upset was the fact I couldn’t find a Sharpie when it was time to reveal the fundraising total. We had bought poster boards and planned to have CHD patients reveal one number of the total and when they turned around, you could barely see it. Side note: We found the Sharpie almost immediately AFTER the event ended.
Although it may not seem that way, I was extremely happy with how the walk turned out despite the setbacks and changes. However, the magnitude of this type of event coming to Tennessee and what it means to families affected by CHD didn’t truly hit me until the photos started rolling in afterward. Teams with their signs and smiling faces. Kids playing in water puddles. Families enjoying the makeshift photo booth and games area. They were excited and happy to be together for such a great cause, some having driven hundreds of miles.
This reminded me that so often, we have this perfect view of how life should be and many times, especially in the life of a CHD patient, this isn’t the case. We have to learn to embrace the imperfections and setbacks, use those moments to make us better and stronger, and realize they’re a part of our story! It’s so easy to focus on the negative and the what-ifs but when we can keep looking forward and focus on what we can control, we can impact ourselves, others and our world in a big way.
So with that being said, I am so thankful for the committee, volunteers and families that helped make Nashville’s first walk a huge success by raising a total of over $55,000—more than doubling our original goal! I have no doubt with the passion we have for CHD awareness that we’ll make next year even better.
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