After attending United Way’s Oscar® Experience for several years, and volunteering with the planning committee for the past two, I am now somewhat of a veteran of this event. In that light, I feel it is my duty, especially as the 2013 Oscar Experience Event Chair, to give you my top 12* tips for making your Oscar Experience unforgettable.
- Buy your tickets here.
- Dress the part! Either dress for the red carpet or find your inner Water for Elephants character and dress for the vintage circus theme.
- After entering the beautiful Mavris Arts and Events Center, you’ll find the silent auction on the first floor. Give this a try: Close your eyes and point at one of the tables filled with amazing auction goodies. Open your eyes and bid on whatever you’re pointing at. It’s the universe telling you that you should. Then bid on the items on either side, just in case your aim was off.
- Try your luck with the fortune tellers. (Hint: try to find out if you’ll win the silent auction items from above).
- Make your way to the second floor and enjoy some midway games. Keep an eye out for "vintage" glassware prizes.
- Revisit the silent auction tables on the first floor. Are you sure you bid on everything you wanted?
- Find your table. Take notice of the lovely décor. Then immediately debate with your tablemates who will win the Oscar® for Best Picture. Skyfall? Lincoln? Zero Dark Thirty? Frankenweenie?
- Don’t be afraid of the bearded lady. In fact, take your picture with her and share it online for all the world to see.
- Have a VIP ticket? Don’t forget to head up to the super-circus-esque third floor with your fellow VIPers and enjoy the red carpet coverage (and possibly shorter bar lines).
- Get your picture taken in front of the photo backdrop. Keep the photo as a memento to remember the Best. Night. Ever.
- Enjoy your favorite Oscar moments on multiple screens throughout the Mavris Arts and Events Center. Seth MacFarlane, host of the 2013 Academy Awards, will be with you every step of the way (except during commercial breaks, of course).
- Have FUN! Giving back to your community and supporting United Way’s education priority has never been quite this exciting. Eat, drink, bid and have a great time knowing you are helping United Way strengthen the Central Indiana community!
--Jessica Thomas, St.Vincent Health
*Everyone does a top 10 list – how many top 12 lists do you see?
Gift giving is on my mind today – those I need to finish making and a few that call for a trip to the mall. I struggle with the holiday focus on things, and am drawn to examples of generosity you can't buy. One such story showed up in my inbox today from a volunteer I met earlier this year.
Last summer, Helene, a volunteer for Child Advocates, a United Way agency, introduced me to Natalie and Nicole, twins she represented as a court-appointed advocate. They had been in the foster care system, were adopted, and then removed from that home after years of abuse and neglect.
After hearing the girls' story of surviving abuse, persevering to graduate from high school, live independently and start college, I told it to producers at WTHR Channel 13. Their anchor, Andrea Morehead, was inspired by it, and decided to produce a television segment about their experience. It aired in September as part of United Way's annual campaign launch.
When people see stories like Andrea's on television, our goal is to help them make a connection between giving to United Way and joining us in a significant mission: helping people learn more, earn more and lead safe and healthy lives. But sometimes, such stories have effects no one expects.
That brings me back to my email today from Helene. I double-clicked on a picture of Nicole and a surgeon who had just operated on her eye to correct a life-long affliction.
Here is what led up this extraordinary gift. When Andrea's story aired in September, Helene showed the video to her friend and business partner, Martha Plager.
Martha noticed that Nicole had a wandering eye, and suggested that her husband, Dr. David Plager, should examine Nicole. He is a pediatric ophthalmologist who is a professor of Ophthalmology and director of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus Service at IU Medical Center, Riley, and Midwest Eye Institute.
On the only day of Nicole's fall break from Vincennes University that Helene could take her for an exam, Dr. Plager fit Nicole in between his scheduled surgeries. Researching her medical history, the doctor discovered that Nicole had three prior eye surgeries in her childhood.
Being in the child welfare system, she somehow never received the necessary follow up services and needed surgery. Dr. Plager made scheduling surgery for Nicole a priority, and today operated on her eye during her winter vacation from college.
Helene's email reads: "Nicole is so excited at the prospect of finally having her eye repaired after thinking that there was nothing that could be done. She is so lucky to have Dr. Plager reach out to her as a patient due to the United Way video produced by Andrea Morehead. I am very thankful to all of them for providing such a gift to such a special young lady."
Gifts and giving like this stand out in a season where things are most often the centerpiece. Helene's email brought it all back to people. Thanks to Child Advocates, children in need have people like Helene to count on. Thanks to Helene, United Way learned of the twins' remarkable story. Thanks to WTHR and Andrea Morehead, thousands of people in our community can see how giving to United Way helps real people. Thanks to Martha and David Plager, Nicole got a unique and lasting Christmas gift. And finally, thanks to everyone who supports United Way as a way to strengthen our whole community.
--Mary L. Kinney, Public/media relations director
At this moment, many of us are looking at the screen of our computer or iPad in the comfort of our home or office. The lights are on, we just finished a meal, and if we listen closely we can hear music playing or heat blowing in the background.
Simple enough, things we take for granted every day. For those in the Richmond Hill area, these are things that disappeared suddenly and without warning in the middle of the night. For many on the East coast these are luxuries that have been gone for weeks.
As we reflect on the holiday season, the volunteers and staff at the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis are grateful for the support of our local community that allows us to be there when the unexpected happens to care for those in need.
The American Red Cross is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization that depends entirely on donations to make our lifesaving mission possible. Funding provided through United Way of Central Indiana is the cornerstone of our community support. A few ways this support has helped the Red Cross respond to Hurricane Sandy and the recent explosion on the south side include:
- We continuously recruit new volunteers. Experienced volunteers conduct training and mentor newer members. Contributions from United Way help make this training possible so when disaster strikes, trained and caring people are prepared, equipped and ready to help. Whether the disaster is down the street or across the country, Red Cross volunteers from Greater Indianapolis are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Payroll contributions of $6 a week (just over $1/daily or about $300 annually) provide 30 people with a day of hot meals in a disaster zone.
- Giving $4 a week (about $200 a year) covers the cost of sheltering four disaster victims for an entire day. This includes providing a safe place to stay, clean blankets, food and emotional support.
- $3 a week (about $130 a year) helps to replace clothing and shoes for one disaster victim.
Health and mental health needs
- Volunteer nurses and mental health professionals are on the ground locally and on the East coast meeting the needs of disaster victims. Your contributions make possible their training and deployment.
These are only a few of the many ways your contributions make a huge impact. The situations in which our clients find themselves are usually not their fault and are beyond comprehension to most of us. When a house catches fire in the middle of the night or a Hurricane makes landfall on the coast, the American Red Cross is there because you are and you care.
Your contribution to United Way of Central Indiana provides shelter to the person who has, in an instant become homeless. It provides warm food to the person with none, and warm and protective clothing to the person who has just seen their life’s work go up in flames or swept out to sea. By extending a helping hand to one we improve the condition of all. Thank you for your support of American Red Cross by giving, advocating and volunteering. LIVE UNITED!
--Rocky Buffum, grants officer, American Red Cross Indianapolis Region
Editor's note: Undesignated gifts to United Way of Central Indiana's annual campaign help ensure that people who experience disaster have the basic needs to recover, through programs and services offered by American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis and The Salvation Army. Since 1958, United Way has invested more than $83.6 million helping people through the Red Cross. That includes grants of more than $2.9 million for capital, maintenance and technology improvements from funds contributed specifically for such needs. The agency’s 2012/2013 Community Fund allocation is $1,141,303.
At CNO Financial Group, we’ve been adopting families from United Christmas Service every year since 1988. We started with four families, but for a very long time now we have adopted 40 each year. Providing holiday cheer for that many can provide logistical challenges. But it does provide even more holiday-spirit filled memories. Here are my top five memories from the last five years. Why not make some of your own memories his year?
5. Heroes in training. Our associates get their families involved every year. I have watched little girls and boys wrapping gifts, hauling toilet paper and paper towels and laughing and smiling the whole time they worked for kids who have less than they do. It warms my heart to see the next generation of volunteers learning about what’s really important.
4. Bedbugs. One year a team captain realized that the family they were working with had a problem with bedbugs. The children had bites all over their bodies. Instead of just being sad about the situation, our team connected the family with free extermination services. This truly changed that family's daily living conditions.
3. True tragedy. Between the time one family became eligible for Christmas Service help and the time they were assigned to our company, our team caption learned one of the sons had died. My associate renewed my Christmas spirit when he told me, "This just means I have to go the extra mile to make the family's holiday the best I can."
2. Family in crisis. One of the families we adopted had been evicted, so they moved in with relatives. When our team contacted the family, he learned they had moved because of a relative's inappropriate behavior. They struggled with finding a living situation that worked. This family still had small children who believed in Santa. Our team delivered the gifts in large bags so they could be hidden until Christmas morning. The family had a rough year, but a great Christmas.
1. A new home. Because of a house fire, last year, one of our families had recently lost everything. They moved to a new apartment, and their church donated furniture, but they had nothing else. Our team supplied dishes, bedding and housewares on top of a robust Christmas. When they delivered the gifts, the children presented each of my colleagues a poster with their photos to thank them. A year later, each of these team members still has their poster hanging by their desk.
I believe I work with angels on earth. If these stories touched your heart, I urge you to put together a program at your company. There is never a shortage of families to adopt, and it takes such a small commitment to make such a big difference.
--Media Oakes, corporate communications, CNO Financial
Each month, we'll post updates about United Way and our agencies. There's (nearly) always something going on!
United Way news
- Michelle Beer, agency services associate, is promoted to agency services manager.
- Brenda Cuminghan is a new temporary, data entry clerk in accounting.
- Chris Herndon has been promoted to vice president of strategic marketing & communications.
- Shannon Jenkins is a new ReadUP program manager.
- Tina Cloer is the new president and chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based The Children's Bureau Inc. She has worked for Adult and Child Mental Health for the past 17 years and most recently served as director of child and adolescent services.
- Shannon Russell-Rinnaker is the new director at the Witham YMCA in Lebanon, replacing Lora Pennington. Shannon formerly worked at the Jordan YMCA in Indianapolis.