Strawberry Festival GoodnessJune 28, 2011 by Victoria Strong The Strawberry Festival in Troy, Ohio was just a few weeks ago and it was amazing! The truly remarkable Penny and Melissa, who own the fabulous children's accessory storeBeb-e-ssentials,hosted a booth at the festival and made it their mission to increase SMA awareness. You may remember the awesomeness of last year's Gwennie Duck and boy was it awesome! Well, this year not only did Penny and Melissa go all out to help end SMA, so did the City of Troy. Here is a recap of the remarkable weekend by our guest blogger, the one and only super fabulous Penny Davidson:
Thank you Troy Strawberry Festival for selecting theGSF as your first charity recipient. We are so honored and humbled by your generosity. And thank you Penny and Melissa for being so amazingly incredible -- for continuing to pound the pavement, to raise funds, to make a difference. Together we can end SMA. One person and one dollar at a time. -- YOU are bringing this to life!
The 2010 Strawberry Festival Great Duck Race will forever be a big highlight in my life . . . the fun of Gwenie the duck, the excitement of watching, the pure shock of winning. More than anything the realization that 1 in a million does happen, 1 in 1,007 in this case. Just think of those odds!!!
When I signed for the check and talked to the press last year Eric told me they would like to help support awareness and raise funds for SMA research with the duck race. His vision was to give a portion of each duck sold to the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation at the 2011 festival. I was shocked, I was immediately in tears as I stood in the office. Eric understood! It wasnt someone who knew someone, he didnt know me and I wasnt local to the community. The message we had sent had gotten through and he also felt a need to lift the veil off this disease. Before I left that day, the secretary in the office explained to me that Eric had been diagnosed with a brain tumor one month prior. Wow, Eric could have easily used the duck race to support a disease that had a local face but he didnt. This amazing family had made a commitment, my question was would the committee and festival organizers agree. Would they for the first time ever partner with an organization and share funds raised? Only time would tell would he remember us in a year?
Eric, the driving force behind this incredible experience never missed a beat. He laughed when I said,I dont know if you remember me. He told me he was working on details and would contact me again in April and asked for my help selling ducks. I answered with an enthusiastic YES! He had made a presentation to the city council and chamber about his plan. They were enthusiastic and agreed. He also explained to me that he would be out of the loop during a portion of the spring to have another brain surgery. We stayed in contact and planned to meet up the day after we got home for vacation to sell ducks at the soccer invitational in May. After that time seemed to spin out of control till the opening day of the festival. We were so excited to roll out the new design for the booth that included our photo banner of over 50 of the precious kids that SMA affects.
Crowds in the thousands attended the festival this year. We were given the opportunity to sit in the booth and help sell ducks and talk about SMA and talk we did! Armed with information cards and bracelets we talked about SMA. The questions and statements were all very similar: I have never heard of SMA, what is it?, The leading genetic killer?, 1 in 40, Wow! Many times single ducks turned into Quack Packs (5 for $20.00). I spent part of Saturday in the booth while Melissa and an awesome friend of mine worked in our booth. Sunday my daughter Tiffany and her friend Kaylee, volunteered in the booth the whole day selling ducks (on their day off from work). Over the weekend we all worked the passing crowds, there was quacking going on, every one worked to draw in the people.
In Ohio there is one thing that you can depend on in June, it seems its either scorching hot or getting ready to storm. This year was no different, temperature Saturday afternoon was 95 with a heat index of over 100. We got the official word at the end of the day on Saturday that severe weather was headed in to the area and we should take all precaution in the booths. We made the decision to load up the booth to protect everything and prayed the tent and tables would be standing when we returned. Thankfully everything was spared and the festival missed the most of the damage on Saturday night. Not far away an Art Show was destroyed by the same storms. Sunday morning everything at the festival was a bit wet but unharmed. So we put it all up and spent the next day chatting away. There were many memorable moments. Once we had 3 girls about 12-13 that came in and after hearing the facts about SMA each pulled out their own money to purchase Gwendolyn Butterflies. We had another treat Sunday when I got to meet Nikki Miller aka Leahs Mom. I introduced her to Eric, and he thought she was pretty awesome too!
When I could sneak away or make a run to feed booth workers I was amazed at the creativity of the food vendors and booths. Strawberry Pizza, Salsa and Barbeque sauce seemed to be the new yummy items. Classic favorites like strawberry smoothies, strawberry shortcake, and strawberry pie were there too. My favorite however was big juicy chocolate covered strawberries.
It was an awesome winning weekend, even though this year I didnt recognize any of the names of the winners of the duck race. We talked and talked, the city of Troy continues to amaze me and set an example I would love to see duplicated in other communities. All I can say is SMA your time is short we are working tirelessly to stomp you out and save precious lives