From the ground up: Planning the RHV inaugural event

There are so many things i can say about this event. With a little more than a month until the event, i am really beginning to think about the past year and everything that has and hasn’t happened.

If you would have told me at this time last year i would be an event planner for a non-profit organization i would have looked you in the face and said “You’re (explative) crazy.” I was running a newspaper. I had no interest in being the activist – I wanted to report on the people who were. To tell me in a year that i would be trying to write/create inspirational or comforting material on a daily basis, i wouldn’t have known how to process that.

At the end of that summer semester a snag in my plan happened. I intended to re-transfer into UNM and finish my degrees. I finished my term at cnm, reapplied into unm and was denied. Typing that last part, close to a year after it happened, is much easier than it was last year. But at the time i was heartbroken. I felt like i was a failure. I had worked so hard at cnm, established a direction i wanted my life to take and suddenly was told i could not proceed. I scrambled to pick up the shattered pieces of my plan.

Sheepishly i signed up for the fall semester at CNM, unaware of the direction my life was about to take. The plan was to grind out the fall at cnm, move home with my head hung and find a school to get my B.A. That plan changed on a day in mid-September.

I awoke to a flashing light on my phone that morning. A light that typically means i have a facebook message. That morning i read one of the saddest stories (written by a friend i had not heard from in close to a year) i had ever been witness to at that time; while it is a story i now know on a daily basis, the nature of that story shook my soul.

In times like that, you do what you can to help. Whether it is cooking food or just being there to have someone there – you offer support. It is what you do. Fortunately, for me and them, i had the ability to help them in ways unlike others. There were circumstances in Andrae’s (Lori’s fiance) death misreported by the local media and given my position on my school’s paper i was able to tell the victim’s side of the story by giving a voice to the person who was there, Lori.

After we cleared Andrae’s name we (Lori, Myself and Andrae’s parents) went to the media outlets in the city to see if they would run a follow up story on Andrae – that way we could tell the true story to a broader selection of people. Once we accomplished that, things seemed like they would simmer down.

They didn’t.

Shortly after the first of those stories aired, Lori approached me about helping run an online community on grief. She was having trouble find resources in our community to go and talk about how she was feeling. The thought was, why don’t we just create our own site under the premise of “grievers helping grievers.”

So we did. RHV was born sometime in late November and we began meeting all of you lovely people. People we have grown to know and love just like family. But something was not right. Andrae was buried under the wrong circumstances and we kept seeing people being unwillingly laid to rest as a result of a violent crime. That did not (and still doesnt) sit well with us. We wanted to do something to honor those people whose lives were taken and hopefully make the community a better place. Thus, much like the website, the event was born – and scheduled for 7/28/2012.

At the time, i didnt know if i could do eight more months in Albuquerque. But i was also as apprehensive about going back to Massachusetts. The only thing i knew is i wanted to keep helping. While our numbers were small at that point, i couldnt help but see the difference we were making. Granted we were only a emotionally positive support system – but something inside of me wanted to see this grow. I needed to see what it would become and i needed to see my friend through what she was going through.

So i stayed. I made the choice a couple of days before my birthday and realized there wasnt any going back. I was to stay in albuquerque for eight more months. The event was hard in the beginning. No one would listen to us. We called media offices, direct lines, essentially anyone who we thought could help. While the site was still progressing nicely (we were in the 350-500 range in mid-March), the lack of success on the event front was more concerning. Noticing this we sent out a media release at the end of march. We wanted to show the site and try to highlight what we were doing for the community.

While i thought the exposure would benefit us more financially, i didn’t expect the impact it would have on our speakers. Suddenly those calls that were not being returned were getting answered. The only problem we had after that were our finances.

Insert the car wash. I have to be honest – i did not think the car wash was going to work. We went to farmington (Lori’s hometown) for the weekend and set up camp outside of a tax service building that was directly across the street from an octopuss car wash. I thought we were screwed. But somehow, and i really dont get this even now, we made out like bandits. We arrived in Farmington on a dark, rainy night. Being from the east coast my apprehension heightened. I always thought rain = washed car.

Not in New Mexico.

In this desert state, the day after a rain storm you typically find your car streaky with clumps of dirt. Seemingly everyone that day flocked to the big industrial car wash. And as the patrons grew tired with the long lines – our little do-good car wash reaped the benifits. We grossed $800 that weekend. Now while our second car wash a month later was not as successful as the previous, we accomplished our fundraising goals. With two months left till the start of the event we now had to tie up loose ends.

And that is what i have been doing the last two weeks. I made sure we had the last of our speakers and am working on getting organizations to host booths. That way the event can be as informative as possible. And while we still have work to do over the next couple of weeks (media releases and buying everything) i cant help but look back at everything and think about all that has happened, the work we have put in and the people we have become. I’ve learned something that will benefit me for the rest of my journalistic writing career. Each story is multi-faceted. Be sure to get everyones thoughts and feelings because they all had an impact on the person’s life.

While i cant speak on behalf of my co-founder, i have seen her grow as a person and have cherished the time we have spent creating our online family. Her strength, courage and overwhelming heart have given comfort and solace to many – and has served as a driving force for me in helping make this site what it is today.

I know this event will go well, we obsess over it enough to know that it will go the way we planned. The thing that is uneasy is the waiting: the wait to make a difference, to memorialize, to finish the goal we set out on almost seven months ago. With a month and a half left i thought it would be refitting to tell the story and see how it has progressed. The thing that excites me however, is the story i get to tell next year. Much love RHV familia. Have a great week.

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