About 6 months ago I ran this crazy idea by my wife and her immediate response was “WHAT? Why?”.
That idea was #CelebrateYourStory. I knew the 2nd Book Birthday of my book #StoriesFromWebb was coming up (it was Friday, January 24th).
I wanted to celebrate that book but I also wanted to do something different. Something special.
That’s where the idea of CYS came. I wanted to hold an event, in my hometown, that celebrate the stories of others.
I’m part of a lot of amazing conferences for educators. Get Your Teach On/Lead On, the TEPSA events, TCEA, SXSWedu, Scholastic Reading Summits, and so many more. Events I couldn’t be PROUDER of!
But I wanted to do something different. I wanted to remove any barriers educators in small towns had for attending PD.
So I made it affordable ($30 for just one day), provided all the meals, and even gave every 2-day registrant a free copy of my book (and a few other surprises).
I priced the event at just high enough where I could end up in the black at the end (after food, hotels for speakers, and event rental). Did we end up in the black? Not quite, but that’s ok.
And for the last 5 years I’ve held tightly to some advice someone once gave me…”Make sure you amplify the voices of others louder than you amplify your own”.
So I didn’t want this event to be all me. So I reached out to a few people in Texas that I admire. I reached out to 14 individuals with a wide range of stories and experiences who all immediately said yes. Who KNEW they weren’t going to get paid for this and that they were just coming to POUR into others. This wouldn’t have happened without THEM.
Then I started wondering if people would actually show up. And real talk? For the first two months registration was open I only had 31 registrants. But as time passed it kept increasing and we ended up with 178 people.
After not sleeping for about 2 weeks (with Get Your Lead On happening the same week too!! haha), the event happened.
At the end of day 2, with time to myself, I was finally able to ball my eyes out and let my emotions release. To feel the amount of pain, excitement, hurting, hungry, joyful educators in that room was powerful. Who gave up a Saturday (and some a Friday too) with no idea of what to expect.
I even had a group of my former Webb/Navasota Intermediate family show up, and they’ll never know what that meant to me. Never. I’ve always said, you show up for those you care about, and it was overwhelming when I saw their faces.
I will forever be grateful to everyone who played a part. My family for all their behind the scenes work, my speakers for their PERFECT stories, my friends who all came through and donated prizes for teachers (every educator walked away with a prize), and to everyone who showed up.
And thank you those friends from afar who sent encouraging messages and wishes of luck. Your love meant the world. Though I kept this very “Texas” focused this year, it was a blessing to hear from so many outside of Texas!
This was my way to give back. My way to take the blessings I’ve received in my life and use my resources to pour into others. With no financial gain whatsoever. And my heart is so full from what I gained from the stories not only of the speakers but those who pulled me aside.
Will #CelebrateYourStory happen again? I have no idea, but for now, I’m going to sleep for about a week. hahahah.