As Spoonflower has grown from two families working together in Mebane to over 170 employees working in both North Carolina and Berlin, we have wanted to give back and help serve our local community in a more meaningful way. With this goal in mind, we established our Volunteerism Committee in December of 2015. So far, the committee has found wonderful projects for Spoonflower to support including adopting a family for Christmas, donating children’s books to Book Harvest, and sponsoring JUST TRYAN IT, which provides assistance to the families of children with cancer. Beyond these wonderful organizations, Spoonflower also offers its employees paid time off specifically designated for volunteering with any nonprofit of their choice.
This past Christmas, Spoonflower adopted a family through the Volunteer Center of Durham. We received the Christmas wish list of a local family with one mother, two boys, and three girls, and the employees of Spoonflower went all out hunting down and beautifully wrapping presents to go under their Christmas tree. Kara Martinez, an employee in our customer service department, said “I was so happy Spoonflower chose to give to a family in need this Christmas! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and having a giving tree at work made it so easy! I was really moved by my coworkers’ enthusiasm to give.”
As the giving project for our spring quarter this year, we held a book drive for Book Harvest. Book Harvest collects and distributes books to low-income children in central North Carolina. They work to make sure young children begin school ready to learn along with their peers and to combat learning loss when children are out of school in the summers. Spoonflower collected 135 books to be donated in March! Meredith Feingold, our Community Outreach Coordinator, donated “Holes” by Louis Sachar. She remembered reading the story when she was growing up and loving the adventure, so she wanted to share that experience with another child.
JUST TRYAN IT
The Volunteerism Committee decided to have one organization that Spoonflower sponsors for the whole year, and this year the wonderful organization we are giving to is JUST TRYAN IT. JUST TRYAN IT hosts youth triathlons for kids of all ages that raise money to provide financial assistance to the families of children with cancer.
I interviewed Carrie Norry, JUST TRYAN IT’s Founder and President, about her organization’s inspiring work:
How did JUST TRYAN IT get started?
Carrie: JUST TRYAN IT came to be when a friend’s son, Ryan, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 6. I was part of a group of women, including Ryan’s mother, Mollie, who were all training to race in triathlons. Hosting a youth triathlon was a natural fit for our group. We wanted to create an event in which all participants were celebrated for doing their best, where a wide variety of abilities was included and where a sense of community was palpable. We sell out each year in Bethesda, hosting more than 500 racers. On May 1st, we will host our inaugural race in Chapel Hill at the Chapel Hill Country Club. We are also expanding into Baltimore, MD this year.
What made you want to get involved with this work?
C: I think it is important to always strive to make the world a better place. When Ryan was in the hospital, I became aware of a world that I didn’t before know--the world of pediatric cancer. Families needed help, and my friends and I rallied to do just that. JUST TRYAN IT’s mission is twofold: to support families undergoing cancer treatment, and also to inspire young kids to make a difference. I am so proud of all the money that we raise to support families in need, but I am equally proud of the more intangible success that we have had with all of our racers.
My children will race this year with the names of three cancer patients on their backs. Two of them are in memoriam. The children never met these individuals, but they have come to know their stories, and they will take great pride in hearing these names when they cross the finish line. For any child to learn about another’s life is enriching; it builds awareness and empathy.
There are many other stories that come out of our event and touch the community. We have siblings and classmates racing for their lost brothers, sisters and friends. We have survivors racing for the first time, finally healthy enough to participate. In Bethesda, we have a young boy who has raced with us after losing his leg to cancer. We all want to be a part of something special and meaningful. JUST TRYAN IT is just that.
What do you love about working with JUST TRYAN IT?
C: What I love most are the different people I have the chance to meet and work with. The women and men that work with cancer patients: the doctors, social workers, development officers, are such a dedicated group. The families themselves still have more to give while in the middle of their fight; they are truly inspiring.
Many participants experience an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride when they cross the finish line. There is a natural high that comes from helping others. If we can provide a forum for kids at a young age to feel that high, maybe they will continue to contribute to their communities throughout their lives. And, perhaps most of all, I love working with a group of dedicated volunteers to make this happen.
How can people get involved?
We have virtual fundraising campaigns that can be accessed from our website in which children can donate birthday parties (ask for donations in lieu of gifts), or create their own campaigns surrounding a marathon they are running, shaving their heads, growing a mustache, or hosting a dance-a-thon. Really the sky is the limit. Simply promoting our event on social media and to friends is helpful as well. Finally, we are looking to partner with more area businesses in sponsorship. One more note, if you cannot attend our event this year, there are other organizations in our area that are doing great work to support pediatric cancer patients. Be Loud! Sophie Foundation and Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon host events in August and September that are worthy of participation.
We at Spoonflower are thrilled and proud to partner with JUST TRYAN IT. Spoonflower employees are signing up and getting excited to volunteer at the race in Chapel Hill on May 1st! Learn more about how Spoonflower gives back with our Blankets for Good project, and even more about our sustainability and community projects here.
About Our Guest Author:
Amy was born and raised in North Carolina and got her degree in American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to writing for our blog, she works on the operations floor at Spoonflower processing and shipping orders. Outside of Spoonflower, Amy's main loves are comedy and her dog Ralphie. Amy performs and teaches improv comedy as often as she can. When she gets the time, she also loves to cook, quilt, paint and dance.