Sunday, February 28, 2010

Road Trip to WAI Conference

A picture of the Girls With Wings traveling road show....

Pretty impressive, isn't it? An 11 year old car which was badly vandalized (can you see the gouges I can't afford to fix on the hood and down the side where someone took a screwdriver or other tool to the paint? Grr.) towing a simple little trailer filled with marketing materials and items sold to raise funds for the Girls With Wings organization. And no, I have not learned to skillfully back up with a trailer. I usually unhook it and push it to where I need it to be. I am a whiz at many things, but I have my limitations.

I had to bring this up because I want people to know that GWW really is really a philanthropic organization with a limited budget and huge goals! So when I can't negotiate on t-shirt prices or donate money in response to a request that is why. My top priorities are our outreach programs and scholarship funds, so a fancy rig is going to have to wait.

So despite the cross country drive (North to South, that is), I just have to attend the Women in Aviation conference every year, and this was in Orlando, FL. To save on my expenses (I made the mistake ONCE of using the logistics company to ship my supplies - which were lost, damaged and cost me a small fortune), I decided to road trip it down from Cleveland. This 21st Annual WAI conference is my 5th having a booth for Girls With Wings. I LOVE going to aviation conferences and attending WAI is a no brainer for a trip. This is where I find the women in aviation who act as role models to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. If that sounds like it'd be a good mission statement for GWW, it's because it is!

It is always such a charge to talk to people about GWW; either people have heard about us and are so excited to meet us in person, or they’ve purchased something from the store and just love telling a story about a reaction they got from someone, or they HAVEN’T heard of us and are so enthusiastic about their support for our mission. Whatever the interaction, it’s usually overwhelming positive. [I had only had one negative experience and that is when a woman came to the booth and demanded to be able to buy a pink lanyard. When I couldn’t produce one, she was mad. No kidding.]

I have a wonderful group of people helping me out again this year. Lindsey, the head of the Minnesota Club of Girls With Wings is here all weekend and helped to present our seminar “Attracting Kids to Aviation” in conjunction with Youth Aviation Adventure. We had a GREAT showing for this presentation, which just goes to show there is so much interest in people spreading a passion for aviation. Thanks to Steve and Dan for suggesting and coordinating the presentation. Their "seminar in a box" allows folks to put on an airport day for kids with tips and techniques for the smallest effort and the greatest success. It was insightful to compare and contrast our programs to give people ideas on how to start their own outreach program.

Also helping with the booth was Mikel, a tweeple I found via Twitter and also assisted me with the AOPA conference last year because she lives in Tampa. Sometimes I bring the whole kit and caboodle to a show; sometimes, I mail about five boxes to someone in the area and I set up a pretty sparse display. It works, but it’s not as fancy. If I do bring the trailer (like to Oshkosh) I unload the trailer with a handy dolly that turns into a cart. There’s no avoiding this step. I so envy organizations that show up the morning of an event because they have slick collapsible stands or their company can afford to have the logistics people for these events set it up for them. Some day.

Last year I mailed stuff to and from WAI with the help of a friend Sara. She helped with AOPA as well and now I just can’t keep her away from the booths! I used to fly with her husband at Flight Options and both are so supportive of GWW. As a pilot herself she really gets behind the mission. From left to right, Lindsey, Penelope, me, and Sara.

Amy, the 2008 Scholarship winner, was there with her Dowling College buddies and spent
some time in the booth, as did Brenda, the 2007 scholarship winner. What a great opportunity to meet up with these great girls again. It’s sad when people who applied and didn’t win stop by, but they assure me there’s no hard feelings. I would LOVE to give everyone who applied a scholarship, but we need to sell a heck of a lot more t-shirts for that. And get donations and sponsorships, which is all why we attend these shows to make contacts and get everyone’s support.

It was an invigorating show and I'd like to thank all that stopped by. Please visit the website and/or make comments to the blog with your thoughts. Remember, the GWW merchandise line offers clothing and other items for girls of all ages; the rarely found aircraft themed items designed to let everyone know “Yes, Girls Can Fly!” While some may view one of our products as just a t-shirt, we believe that it is in fact a statement about the potential of girls to be intimately connected with Aviation (and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics based fields) from the time they are born. We call this STEAM instead of STEM. In order for us to go Full STEAM Ahead, all profits from the aforementioned merchandise are invested in developments to our educational program and scholarships.

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