Class Project – Booster Pak Bash
The Class of 2011 conducted several surveys of class members to narrow our direction and choose a project based on that consensus. By late November/early December the class had chosen a WDM-specific project directed at helping kids. It was important to the class that our effort would not only build awareness for a particular cause but extend the relevance of what we did into future years, potentially developing into an annual event.
After evaluating different alternatives we settled on Booster Pak, a division of the West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation that provides meals for hungry children on the weekends and during school breaks. Volunteer-driven, Booster Pak’s mission is to help at-risk students in the WDM Community Schools reach their fullest potential by reducing childhood hunger and promoting health and wellness. The program provides nutritious, kid-friendly food to at-risk elementary students and personal care and baby items for at-risk teens.
A class steering committee was formed to establish a course of action, evaluate options, develop an operational plan, and report out and get the class organized. Because we were well into the year, we agreed to develop a fund raising/awareness event to take place after our last class and before graduation in June. We decided that leveraging an existing event would also improve the scale of our work and subsequently awareness and potential donations.
The Des Moines Menace home opener was set for May 14 and we decided to hold the Booster Pak Bash, a family-friendly outdoor barbeque, in conjunction with that game. Committees were formed, chairs were named, and all class members were assigned various responsibilities required to get the project operational. Three class members took on the role of executive committee, setting meetings, agendas and timelines, meeting with external stakeholders, keeping everyone on task, and providing overall coordination.
As we learned more about our cause and gained greater understanding of the complexity of the project it became clear Booster Pak needed a more robust form of communication and marketing, as well as a tool to facilitate the event. Additionally, we wanted to provide a long-term benefit to Booster Pak beyond the one-time contribution from the Bash. Capitalizing on the skills of a subject-matter expert in the class, we initiated a complete makeover of their web site and a robust web platform with CRM capabilities to enable better tracking of donors, online donation, and overall stronger marketing of the message and cause.
While the weather was not cooperative, by all other measures the Booster Pak Bash was a huge success. Event highlights included entertainment, games, Mercy EMS ambulances, a WDM Fire truck, animals from Blank Park Zoo, donations for a Katelyn Epperly autograph session and personal photo, Des Moines Menace player autographs and mascot appearance, a silent auction, and a first-class barbeque served up by a Hy-Vee chef/class member and other class volunteers that resulted in more than $16,000 donated to Booster Pak. This donation was equivalent to over 3000 Booster Pak backpacks and meals.
- Many hands make light work to make a real difference in the World – witness Melanie Menken, founder of Booster Pak, whose drive and persistence created and sustained Booster Pak when few would help her with her mighty mission. She was, and is, an inspiration to the entire WDMLA Class of 2011, giving us a real-life example of what one person with a passion to help others can accomplish.
- Start early, take small bites, and figure it out as a class – no one is going to give you much direction.
- Get organized, hold the entire class accountable to find their individual niche as a project participant and make it a personal priority.
- The process gives back more than it takes and bonds class participants together – who knows, it just might change your life.
- Draw in as many WDM businesses and seek out advice and counsel from all available resources, including former class members.