Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lift Up America details finally

Over due, but then what else is new with me and blog posts lately anyhow? LOL

Lift Up America was a huge charity event that came through Dallas a few weeks ago. It is a program that partners with various large companies and professional sports teams and is dedicated to helping underprivileged families in America. They provide glasses and hearing aids to children whose families can't afford it and they also give food to families who need it.

This year's event was to give the children and their families a movie premiere night, just like all the actors and celebrities go to. The movie was Meet Me in Miami and was actually donated by the producers/directors to lift Up America. They said they'd rather the movie go to helping those in need then make them any profits. So the movie is traveling all over the country to various cities for these events.

The event was April 24th and started at about 3:00 or so in the afternoon and we had a training session the night before to prepare for the event (and discuss emergency procedures since really nasty thunderstorms were expected and we had to have a plan for keeping the kids and their families safe and protected in the event of a tornado or something. I was volunteering as a part of a contingent from Thrive, my singles' group at my church. We met at about 5:30 or so at the church then headed over to the theater where the event was going on after receiving our assignments the night before at training.

The families were chosen from several different family aid or fostering organizations throughout Dallas based on specific criteria to make them eligible for the program. They told us how many were expected to come but I forget exactly. I think it was a couple/few thousand though and every single screen in the 17 screen Cineplex was used for this event. The entire theater was closed to the public all day long.

The children were all bused in from various churches, homes etc with parents or other adults escorting them. The buses pulled up behind the theater and everyone was put in a limo to be driven around to the front of the theater. Here's where the real excitement began. The red carpet had been rolled out and there were tons of people lining it on both sides. There were huge jumbotron screens and numerous photographers. As the folks got out of the limos, everyone waiting started screaming and cheering and applauding. Cameras were flashing and everyone was able to see themselves on the big screens. People were reaching out to shake the hand of our Honored Guests and ask for their autographs. (This is what all the families and children were called all night long. We were not to call them anything BUT honored guests.) Each child was given a special Beanie baby among other goodies. (I believe these were specially made for Lift Up America and these events.) Everyone got their glasses and hearing aids who needed them sometime before all this but I'm not sure exactly when since we weren't part of that particular activity for the event.

After arriving on the red carpet, they went inside where they got dinner provided for them. After dinner, they filled up the theaters and once they got in the theaters they found more waiting for them. Every person got a popcorn and drink to enjoy during the movie. After the movie was over, they exited via another red carpet and ended up at the goodie tent. Here each child got a gift bag with a variety of items in it. One thing they got was EVERY SINGLE CHILD received a scholarship for Dallas Christian Academy, a local private and very affluent school in the area. I didn't see the scholarship certificates myself but someone told me each scholarship was $5000!!! When you think of how many kids were a part of the 3000 or so guests you can imagine how much money that is the school donated to the event! After going through the goodie tent, of course yet again to more cheering and applause, they came to the chicken truck. Every single family in attendance got a 10 LB case of chicken donated by Tyson Chicken. Let me just say that is a LOT of chicken!

Also at this point they had camera men available and interviewing the children about what they thought of the movie etc. So the kids had a ball being interviewed and more pictures taken etc. Then they were escorted back to their buses for the ride home. The entire evening finished up about 10:00 or so.

And that is the actual event in a nutshell and what was done for the families. Now for the volunteer stuff etc.

Upon arrival at the theater, many of the volunteers had our duties we had been given the night before changed to something else. Dinner was provided for us then it was off to work we went. My original job had been screen duty. I was supposed to be in one of the theaters while the movie was playing, making sure no kids snuck out of the theater or escorted them to the bathroom if they needed to use it, etc. This was changed when I got there though.

I was then put on bus duty. I was one of many who was supposed to be outside at the end of the line to make sure everyone got back to their correct buses etc. This didn't work too well though so it was just a couple people who did that. So I stood there for a while on a receiving line of sorts, cheering for everyone as they came out the exit doors and got their goodies. This job did double duty as we also had to direct many people over to the chicken tables who didn't realize they were to stop there first. But soon thereafter, they realized they needed help on chicken duty so I went over there and manned a table with my friend C and we gave out cases of chicken the rest of the night, alternately cheering and applauding and handing out cases.

In an aside here, I know I mentioned in this blog and a previous one about the weather concerns. I kept praying all day long that if it had to rain and have tornadoes that it please wait until all the children were safe and had left to return home. It rained lightly for most of the night but nothing heavy. Wouldn't you know the very minute after the last person was loaded on to their bus, the skies let loose. It was a horrible dreadful downpour that was so bad it was a steady wall of water pouring out of the sky. The lightning and thunder started and the tornado warnings started coming in. Talk about divine providence! They exact moment everyone was safely on their buses the worst of the weather struck! You can imagine we were thanking God for that afterwards!

Let me just say, this was an absolutely incredible experience and you won't believe the feelings I had afterwards for being part of such an event. You can't participate in something like this and not be moved by it. Watching those children's faces light up when they realized all of this was for THEM. Some of them were just so blown away by the lavishness of the night they couldn't even speak. Some of them came running out the theater, huge smiles on their faces, high fiving every single person they came in contact with. Everyone was so thankful for everything they were given. And the shock and surprise when we handed each of them a huge case of food was amazing as well. I can't count the number of times I got choked up over the whole thing. I don't think I've ever seen such an abundance of joy and happiness and thankfulness as I saw that night. Even sitting here writing up the details for you to read, a few weeks later, I have tears pricking the corners of my eyes.

What a humbling experience this all was. Here we all worry about such trivial things when we are put in the presence of so many people who have real things to worry about, like where their next meal is coming from or feeling embarrassed about the fact they can't even buy glasses for their children. It really gives you a sense of what's most important in the world. I strongly encourage you to see what you can do in your city for such an amazing program. You won't be disappointed in what you get out of it, I can promise you that.

Lift Up America apparently is coming back to Dallas in August for something else and you can bet I'll be volunteering as much as I can then too!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Spiderman 3

I went to the midnight showing (first time I've ever done that) with my friend B last night. We invited the other folks at our weekly Starbucks gathering but no one else wanted to stay up that late. LOL Both of us agreed that while it was pretty good it didn't come close to comparing to the first two movies and we didn't think it was worth staying up for the midnight show.

I liked the additional humor but I thought the cheesy factor was overdone and ended up being too much. There was some wonderful character growth for a few of the characters (Peter, Henry, Marko especially) though MJ was just too whiny for me. Kirsten Dunst sure has the screaming talent mastered though. LOL

I think the movie was a little too long and there were some parts that really seemed to drag. I think they could have cut 30 minutes or so from the story and then the movie would have more of an impact yet we still wouldn't have lost any of the lesson learning or the character growth.

I was really disappointed we didn't get to see more of Venom. He's such a cool bad guy I would have loved more of him. He's really only in the last half hour or so.

Effects were very well done. The Sandman scenes were fantastic. The symbiote scenes where it attached itself to Spidey and later Eddie was really cool too.

I have a new appreciation for James Franco as I thought he did an incredible job in his role. And Thomas Haden Church... He's come a LONG way from his time on Wings.