Looking Back…Moving Forward: WALKING Strong in Atlanta!
As we continue our interview series commemorating our 30th anniversary, this week Randi Corey, our National Director of Special Events and Volunteer Support, sits down with Jennifer Taylor, our HA WALK Chair in Atlanta, Georgia, to ask her about volunteering for HA, chairing a HA WALK, and other thoughts about our association. Jen’s two year old son, Colton, has hydrocephalus. Jen has served as Co-Chair of the Atlanta WALK for the past two years. Special thanks to Jen for sharing her thoughts with us.
HA: How did you find HA and why did you decide to volunteer?
JEN: When my son was diagnosed, we “Googled” hydrocephalus and saw a link to the HA website for local support groups. We decided to attend one. The leader of the group also served as the WALK Chair. She was asking for volunteers to help with the event so I stepped up as Co-Chair with no idea of what I was getting myself into!
I have always had a passion for helping people. Even when I was young, I was very involved in my church youth group and frequently attended volunteer projects in the community and around the world. I always knew I wanted to work with people, and after college discovered my love for planning and organizing events. When my son was diagnosed with congenital hydrocephalus I knew this was my calling! To help by giving back!
HA: What is your favorite WALK moment or memory from the past two years?
JEN: My favorite memory is at last year’s event when we presented the “Top Fundraiser” award to Anna Beck. No one knew we were going to do it, so it was a complete surprise. She was so humbled and thrilled that she received an award and a wonderful gift card.
HA: What do you think HA WALKs do for the hydrocephalus community?
JEN: They increase awareness of hydrocephalus and what it is, as well as communicate to those living with or affected by hydrocephalus that there is a local “hydrocephalus community” – a place they can turn to for support.
HA: What do you like best about leading a HA WALK — and what do you like the least?
JEN: What I like the best is seeing the end result – WALK day! Watching everyone having fun, watching the families connect and share advice and their experiences is a wonderful feeling – it’s so gratifying and fulfilling!
What I like the least is the challenge of increasing awareness throughout the greater Atlanta area – trying to increase exposure through media outlets and securing corporate sponsorships. I dislike the fact that as a volunteer I cannot always give 100% in every area that I’d like to because this isn’t my full-time job. Since I work full-time (9-5) there are ten thousand more things I want to do for this event, but just can’t. It’s frustrating. I am getting better at recruiting help, however!
HA: The hours you spend on coordinating the WALK and all of your hard work for HA often require sacrifices on the part of your family members. How do they feel about your serving as a WALK Chair?
JEN: My husband and extended family fully support me and are very proud that I do this. They help in any way they can. Many of them volunteer on WALK day and one of them is the Event Day Volunteer Recruitment Chair! My father’s company is a $250 sponsor, with their donation earmarked to help purchase anything we were unable to get donated. They are proud to be a part of an association that is doing such great work. It’s especially meaningful to them since my son was diagnosed before birth.
HA: Do you think your son understands what you’re doing to raise awareness of hydrocephalus by co-chairing the Atlanta WALK?
JEN: He’s two years old so he doesn’t understand…but I’d like to think he’s proud!
HA: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned about coordinating a HA WALK?
JEN: Don’t wait until the last minute to do things! Start 8 months out and dedicate a certain time each day or each week specifically to the WALK. If you do this, it becomes like clocking in for a job and you know things will get done. It also makes it less overwhelming.
Also, use that THICK WALK Chair’s Manual as your WALK bible. Use the timeline, check it frequently and use the templates. You may think, “Oh, I can type my own confirmation letter.” But saving yourself 10-20 minutes means you can contact that many more people.