We Gotta Stay Together
As I explored my musical archives this past month for an upcoming lip sync battle with our remotely working staff, I found the lyrics of the song “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree, circa 1994, captures the incredible sense of togetherness I have felt since this tidal wave of change came to our doorstep. Folded into numerous affirmations about resiliency and patience (lyrics that feel much more relevant now than they did in my adolescence) is the line “You gotta stay together.” This notion very aptly sums up what I have experienced at WAS in the past 10 weeks; we have connected, shared, and supported each other in honest and vulnerable ways within the adaptive industry and outside of it. Our lives have been dominated by the unforeseen as of late, however, the emergence of these new opportunities for connection and collaboration has been one change that we have welcomed wholeheartedly.
Guided by their unabated focus on what is possible, our team at WAS has come together and supported each other through many new and innovative endeavors. In just two weeks’ time, our largest fundraiser, the Steve Young Ski Classic, shifted from a 450-person, day-long affair to a multifaceted virtual event that not only exceeded expectations, but opened the door to a more diverse donor base not previously reached. In-person lessons quickly transformed into virtual workouts and yoga classes. More recently, we reopened our equipment rental program with a newly established component of door-to-door delivery and maintenance support. The Sterner family shared with us that “During this pandemic, we have definitely had more time as a family and have loved getting ALL our kids on bikes with the help of the bike rental program through WAS! Thank you for providing the program and helping our families make memories and be active outside together!” The equipment rental program has enabled the WAS community to be back on the trails and we could not be more thrilled. Since day one of what was supposed to be the start of spring programming, our cohort of instructors has remotely researched, organized, and presented on a number of topics such as rules of the road, spinning vs. grinding, and bike hacks 101. I am humbled by how the WAS team, staff and students together, have exemplified what it means to adapt, responding to change and embracing opportunities around every bend in this journey we are all on.
It isn’t just within WAS and its community that we have come together to confront this challenge, but also within the broader adaptive community of nonprofit leaders on a national scale- executive, program, and development teams alike. We have created a stronger collaborative community by openly discussing our struggles and our strengths on a weekly basis. These informal virtual meetings have one objective: to come together. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to these gatherings to be reminded that we are all in this as one peloton facing a particularly strong headwind. Despite each organization’s unique circumstance, we continue to find common ground in our commitment to the people who make what we do possible- our participants, staff, and donors. I have learned so much about problem solving, communication, and the ability to find comfort amidst the discomfort of the unknown. I am so grateful for the leadership of my peers in the industry and genuinely look forward to maintaining these connections moving forward.
Our outreach and community building have continued snowballing as we have become even more connected with a number of donors by reaching out to understand how the pandemic has touched their lives. These informal check-ins revealed a newfound depth to our unique partnership with each individual. We conversed about how to build a ninja training course with grandchildren, how you can still have fun playing socially-distanced pickleball with friends, and how the beauty found in the remote corners of Wyoming can recharge one’s battery. Their professional and economic perspective has helped shape our strategic decision making. Without fail, during each of these calls, our supporters inquired about how they can support the WAS family during this time. We are truly fortunate to have such resilient momentum behind our work. The relationships we have forged with our donors have fostered a deep sense of community. Their support for the work that we do has left us profoundly optimistic about the future.
Our path forward is clearer because of this renewed sense of togetherness that we have found through deeper connections with our peers and donors. I am thankful for all of you who are so dedicated to ensuring access to recreation for people of all abilities. To the WAS community: the July 7th return to programming cannot come soon enough. Be sure to tune into our virtual workouts for some pre-season training! To the inclusive adaptive community: let’s build on this collaborative spirit to achieve that much more together in the years to come and in Des’ree’s words remember, “You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together.”