Our Big Week

Nevada / May 27, 2012 / by Gelb
Our Big Week

This week has been a pretty important few days for the team. We started our week just outside Reno, Nevada, in a town called Sparks and finish it in Vegas. Though it was mainly a working week, we also had some major successes in outreach, and excitement.

Sunday was a working day. After Chris was finished at Church, we all found a coffee shop and got lots of work done. The Huffington Post had asked us to become bloggers earlier last week, and our first piece for them was to appear on Monday. I was nervous. We had our social media meeting and took stock of our numbers. The Huffington Post is a major site, and getting our pieces featured there could be really great both in terms of increased coverage for the stories as well as what we are doing. It could also show us that no one has an appetite for this stuff.

Monday morning came, and our first piece, Knitting Behind Bars went up - the response was fantastic. So many people liked and shared our post and video, and we started getting in touch with all sorts of fantastic and wonderful people with story ideas and supportive words. At last count, the video has tripled viewership. It was impressive, we were overwhelmed.

Tuesday morning was a bit of a mad rush. We had a story later in the day on the fantastic organization called Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets, but beforehand, there were errands to run! While I was out making copies, I received word that one of our interviewees was very unwell. We were going to have to try and re-schedule. We decided to speak with the co-founders of HP4HV on Wednesday afternoon: Another double header!! I think everyone was relieved that we had another day to get some work done. A few minutes after letting everyone know that we were not doing the story, I received an email from a producer at CBS This morning - they want us on their show! I finished making my copies as fast as possible and high-tailed it back to base to get on the phone with her and chat us up.

I got back and spoke with the producer - they had seen our piece on the Huffington Post and wanted to do a story about us, our journey, and some of our favorite stories. They were also interested in checking back in with us as we went, and they invited us to appear in-studio with them in December! It was quite exciting. The whole team was above excited. This would be our first national interview - a great way to get out word about the project (and hopefully attract some much-needed funding!). I went to sleep excited, nervous, happy, concerned, surprised, and anxious.

The next morning, we got ready to head out on our double-header. Amy Wallace was not feeling very well, and had to stay aboard. The four of us got ready and headed out to our first story, The Foster Grandparent Program of Northern Nevada. They pair grandparents, many of whom are low-income, with underserved kids in title-one schools to help them read and succeed inside and outside the classroom. We got to meet Mary and Sheri, both of whom run the program, as well as Grandma Mary - one of the longest serving grandparents. It was really great to see the joy the program brought to Mary, but also the support it clearly gave to the kids. The kids were all crowded around Grandma Mary during reading time - a fantastic image.

We had heard late the day before that the local NBC station also wanted to speak with us so Amy Rose left us a little after we arrived to go off for her interview and returned after. They wanted her again at 12 so we wound up our shooting, and then all headed over to the NBC studio, rushing to make it in time for her next on-air bit. After she was finished we picked up some lunch at In-n-Out Burger - a new experience for most of us (fries animal style…), and then started to make our way over to the VA Hospital for our next story.

We met up with Brenda and the team at Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets in a park close to the VA. There were dogs of all sizes there and a few iguanas on leashes as well (which caused me no end of amusement). The folks were all so wonderful. It is such an important project: they pair up pets from shelters that would otherwise be put down with veterans. The pets work as much more of a companion. For some they may be trained as mobility dogs, others they are there to provide a purpose, a mission, to stay active. It was such a wonderful story - I hope we can do it justice. The day was finished around 5. One day, two interviews, two stories. We were all pooped.

We woke up rather early on Thursday and got the bus ready to move. We needed to be in Las Vegas the following day, and we wanted to try and see Lake Tahoe on the way down. The bus got moving around 10:00 after a propane re-fill, and we were on our way to Carson City. We were warned about the steep inclines around Lake Tahoe, so we parked the bus and all hopped into the van. Lake Tahoe is truly breathtaking. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. After a little walk, lots of photos, and Steven getting his shoes thoroughly soaked, we headed back on the road, picked up the bus and continued our drive towards Las Vegas. We made it to a little town called Mina by the evening, and pulled in to re-charge. We were on US 95 - quite a desolate place, but beautiful.

Friday was an early start. We had a story that got in touch with us late on Thursday that we just had to do. It was about the Helping Hands Surgical Care in Las Vegas. They provide much needed surgeries to those who cannot afford them. We were still five hours outside Vegas and needed to get going! We were out by 8:45, and on the road. It was the windiest day old Stanley has experienced yet. We went through a dust storm, had to face angry tumbleweeds and other shrapnel that bombarded us as we were making our way down. When we approached the outskirts of the city, the team split up to make sure the story was able to be completed. Chris and I went to set up the bus, while Steven and the Amys went off to meet with the folks at HHSC. We were all back in our campground by 4pm, and tired from a long day. It was nothing compared to what awaited us, however. It was an early night.

Saturday morning, 3am. Steven, Amy Wallace and I got up and got ready for our first national interview. Unfortunately the studio we were going to couldn't fit the five of us, so we agreed that it would be we three this time, and Amy Rose and Chris would be up the next time (the producer assured me that they will want to check in periodically with the team). Amy, Steven and I made our way over to the little satellite studio, and got all connected with our ear pieces and microphones. We could hear the show as it was playing out - it was oddly calming. We were finally on - Rebecca Jarvis and Jeff Glor asked us some questions, and we got to chat about how the project started and what we've done so far. It was awesome! The whole thing felt like it lasted for a few seconds, but we covered quite a bit of ground in the process. We were all done by 5am, and headed back to the bus. Because the show is shown at different times in different markets, we were going to see it exactly one-hour delayed from when we were on. Amy Rose live-tweeted the show to get people excited for us coming on. Every hour, as we were up we got a wave of visitors to the website and messages about good news and well-wishes. The site crashed a few times because of the load, but managed to hold up for most of it. We were so excited, and exhausted. It was time for a long nap, followed by a celebratory feast at one of Las Vegas's many buffets (one of the cheaper ones, I assure you), and another nap. In the evening, we set out to explore the city and see the sights. Chris calculated we walked over 7 miles. Amy Wallace definitely has blisters, and we all slept well.

All in all, a very exciting week. We can't wait what the next one will bring. Perhaps it's time to be able to turn our increased exposure into funding for the project? Any ideas??!