2012 Campaign Kicks Off!

by Kellie Cochrane

Battle Creek guests mingle and check out the cars

American Idol Finalist and Kalamazoo resident, Matt Giraud, performs at the kickoff event in Kalamazoo.

The 2012 United Way community campaigns in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo got off to a great start on Sept. 12 with fantastic weather and equally fantastic support. Attendees were treated to a little food, a lot of music, and a really big parking ticket.

Battle Creek’s campaign kicked off at Willard Beach in the morning.  The event, with more than 100 participants, featured shiny new cars and some inspiring speakers.  President and CEO, Mike Larson talked about the importance of working together to achieve each community’s goals and advance the common good.  Vice President and COO, Chris Sargent, shared his personal passion for United Way’s mission, urging others to embrace it as well. Chris, bleary-eyed after welcoming a new grandchild early that morning, talked about how United Way can help assure that his grandchild, and all of the children of our region, will have the best possible life, and that’s the heart of every United Way initiative.

As Battle Creek co-chairs Victoria Reese and Terance Lunger joined Chris at the podium, the calm morning was shattered by flashing lights and a screeching siren. To everyone’s surprise—well, almost everyone—a Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department cruiser arrived, and a deputy presented the three speakers with a jaw-dropping parking ticket: $5.8 million, which happens to be the community campaign’s goal. It was a unique way to announce the goal and excite the crowd

Later in the afternoon, that excitement shifted to the Arcadia Festival Site in downtown Kalamazoo. United Way supporters heard similar messages encouraging support for the campaign and personal engagement for bettering our communities.  There were more cars to remind everyone about our sweepstakes.  Kalamazoo Campaign Chair, Phil Harbert, recognized our outstanding Pacesetter companies before revealing the Kalamazoo goal, each number of which was hidden under the hood of the car.  As the hoods opened, supporters were able to see the $9.55 million goal.  Capping the announcement of the local goal was a surprise musical guest: Matt Giraud, a Kalamazoo resident and 2009 finalist on the television show “American Idol.”   Matt sang, played the piano and encouraged the crowd to get involved in United Way.

In total, UWBCKR’s goal for the region is $15.3 million.  We’re grateful for everyone who came out to support both of our kickoff events, and we’re even more grateful for the enthusiastic support of United Way and its partners.  We’re ready to get started on this goal!  $15.3 million,  here we come!