Dick Sesler describes SEED20 OnStage! as “a cross between a TED Talk and Dancing With The Stars.” As founder and executive director of Camp Blue Skies, Dick jumped at the opportunity to share his organization’s mission and vision with the audience at SEED20 OnStage! Camp Blue Skies walked away with third place prize of $7,500 and an audience choice award of $2,500 for $10,000 in total winnings. “The funding we received from the judges and the audience helped fund 20 campers,” Sesler shared. Yet even beyond the prize monies, Sesler was blown away by the SEED20 process and experience.
Camp Blue Skies offers week-long residential camps for adults (age 21 and up) with developmental disabilities. Their focus is on the camper’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being through continued development of a healthy lifestyle and positive social skills. One of his organization’s biggest challenges, Sesler notes, is the timing of its programs. Camps are offered in spring and fall, off-season from normal summer camps that have access to a broader volunteer pool of college students and junior camp counselors.
“We are so volunteer-driven,” Sesler explained. “In order for our model to be successful, volunteer recruitment has to come from adults who have jobs or are retired. So the opportunity of SEED20 to be in front of 400-500 people and get their attention is incredible. A number of people came up after my presentation with new interest in volunteering.”
Even beyond his winnings and an increased volunteer pool, Sesler and Camp Blue Skies got still more out of SEED20. “The whole experience was just terrific,” Sesler said. “It was, for myself and the other participants, such a great opportunity to expose what we’re doing to the audience while at the same time getting to bond with and share stories and experiences and challenges with the other 19 members of our class. We’ve just created this wonderful community of people.”
In addition to this ongoing opportunity to build and enrich his nonprofit community, Sesler loved the period spent with coaches and mentors in preparation for SEED20 OnStage! “It really helped us focus on our mission and communicating to the public what we’re doing in a concise and thoughtful manner,” he said. “I had to come out with more confidence in what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and where we fit into the community and the needs of the community. At the same time, it was very humbling to hear the stories and the activities of the other 19 organizations.”
Finally, Sesler concluded, the recognition Camp Blue Skies received at and through SEED20 was ultimately reaffirming. “You just know other people are spreading the word,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.”