It was a warm, spring day in Ontario and I was volunteering for a day at the OM office. Actually, I was visiting Canada to go birding with Heather, but she’s very clever and managed to get a day of work out of me first. She forwarded me a link to CITGO’s FuelingGood contest and said, “hey, wanna take a look at this?” I said “sure, whatever…” and did just that.
It looked easy enough… explain what OM does and send one photo. Content was no problem – there’s more than enough to draw from on OM’s website, especially the Field Journal. Then I spotted the challenge! CITGO was very smart – they had better things to do than sit around reading term paper length essays about every non-profit with a virtuous cause, so they limited the write-up to not much more than a tweet! Just explain the plight of Whooping Cranes, that OM is a key player in saving them from extinction, how OM conditions each year’s chicks to follow an ultralight aircraft flown by pilots in hooded costumes, how they are led on an arduous migration from Wisconsin to Florida, and how many vehicles are involved making fuel an essential ingredient – all in limited space about the size of the name and address field on a tax return.
While I whittled a page full of words, every one of them seeming critical in the telling of OM’s story, down to a paragraph, Heather chose just the right photo from her arsenal that would be attached to the entry. And off it went!
Step 2 was the daily voting. Citgo’s FuelingGood committee would review the top vote-getter’s and then decide which organizations would be awarded the coveting $5000 in fuel cards prize. So we needed to ensure OM got into that final round!
Enter the Craniacs! Every day Craniacs would remind each other to get the word out. VOTE! SHARE! POST! TWEET! At first there were some technical difficulties. I suspect that CITGO’s FuelingGood website was not provisioned for the volume of traffic that OM’s avid supporters generate when issued a challenge. The technical problems quieted and we all settled into a routine of voting for OM every 24 hours or so. Even on migration Heather would yell across the Sierra, “Girl-Jo, did you vote yet?” (Girl-Jo was one of my nicknames to distinguish me from Boy-Joe in the Sierra. I won’t mention some of my OTHER nicknames!)
Anyway, the Craniacs voted and voted and voted again. And then the voting closed and we were all left wondering “did OM make it???” That was a bit frustrating – FuelingGood didn’t publish stats on their website so you could see the rankings along the way. So the Craniacs waited and waited and waited. Somewhere along the line Heather received word that OM was a finalist so now the waiting was to learn if we won. Just about every day Heather would receive a query from somebody, “have you heard anything from CITGO yet???” and every day the answer was “nope, not yet”.
I can’t even describe you how happy flappy proud I was the day Heather got word that OM had won one of the ten $5000 prizes! Not proud of the paragraph I had crafted just to get OM’s toe in the door, but of the Craniacs who had rallied to “get the vote out” day in and day out. YEAH! Pats on the back all around!!!
Fast forward to about a month ago… Heather contacted me and asked if I’d like to attend CITGO’s award presentation in Saratoga Springs, NY to accept the prize on OM’s behalf. It took me about half a second to say yes! The icing on the cake was that CITGO would pay for my overnight and provide a gas card to pay for my fuel to get there and back. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Fast forward again to this past Monday. I hopped in my car and took a scenic 3 1/2 hour drive through Rhode Island (took about 15 minutes), Massachusetts (took about 2 hours), and then north through Albany, NY to Saratoga Springs. The Gideon Putnam hotel was in a beautiful spot right inside Saratoga Spa State Park.
A brief digression to tell the story of this gorgeous setting… Gideon Putnam was actually from Sutton, MA, not far from my home in RI. In 1789 the Putnam family moved to what became Saratoga Springs and Gideon opened a saw mill. He saw the value and potential of the nearby springs and later opened a guesthouse that was dubbed “Gideon’s Folly” by the locals. Some folly! Putnam was obviously a visionary! Saratoga Spa State Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and has the only actively spouting geysers east of the Mississippi River in the US. (Thank you Wikipedia!)
Anyway… I arrived at the Gideon Putnam about 6 PM and settled in. Since the temperature outside was single digits (Fahrenheit), I decided not to take advantage of the snow shoes that lined the hotel’s entrance, though it WAS tempting.
Wandering around the hotel, I came across the conference room where Tuesday morning’s CITGO event would take place. There I met Nicole, working late to set up the room. She gave me instructions on when and where for morning and I headed off to bed.
Tuesday morning I joined about 40 or so CITGO top distributors for breakfast, and, later was honored to accept a plaque and $5000 worth of fuel cards on OM’s behalf from Terry Sullivan, CITGO’s General Manager of Northeast Sales. I said a brief thank you to the room, explaining that, on migration, OM operates 3 trucks, 1 van, 2 motor homes, and 3 aircraft, so fuel is a critical resource.
Next, lunch. The hotel put on a very nice buffet and I got a chance to answer questions about OM and Whooping Cranes. Some of the folks had heard of the program, but most hadn’t, so this was a great opportunity to educate some newbies about OM’s important work!
By now I’m sure you’re sleeping, or at least wishing that I had imposed the same rules for brevity that CITGO had enforced in the contest entry, so I’ll wrap up. A key take away from having the opportunity to chat with CITGO folks about FuelingGood is that one of the reasons they run the contest as they do, i.e. with daily voting, is to keep reaching as many people as possible with the good work that CITGO is doing. And they were VERY impressed at how far and wide “Craniac Nation” reaches.
Whooping Crane “enthusiasts” around the world are a force to be reckoned with – we WILL save this species!!!