I dabbled with volunteerism for years without finding a cause that I was truly passionate about and without feeling like I was having much impact. That changed with a phone call in October of 2006. I was working as a senior counselor for a public relations firm when I found myself on the phone with a man who said he was calling on behalf of the parents of Emily Keyes. I knew Emily’s name well because she had been the focus of both national and local media during the past few days. Emily had been shot and killed in what would become known as the Platte Canyon Hostage Crisis. The man explained that Emily’s parents were seeking help from our firm to manage the media surrounding the tragedy and to help develop a strategy for a Foundation in Emily’s name. He went on to say Emily’s parents had decided to call this future foundation the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, because those were the words that Emily texted to her parents after she had been taken hostage but before she was killed. They didn’t currently have a budget for this undertaking and were looking for our firm to take them on as a pro bono client. My heart ached – it ached for Emily’s parents who had lost a child in the most horrific of circumstance and wanted to do something to prevent that from happening to other parents, and it ached because I knew our firm was not in a position to help them.
As I was delivering the unwelcome news that our firm had already committed all our pro bono resources for the year, it occurred to me that I could be the resource. I was one of the firm’s crisis management specialists, and I had a great deal of experience in strategy development. I explained how I could help by volunteering my time, met with the Keyes family that weekend and spent the following weeks and then months helping the family work with the media and then doing strategy development and media relations for the “I love U guys” Foundation. I went on to become a board member for the foundation, which has done a great deal to address and prevent violence in our schools. With that experience, I was hooked on both volunteerism and charitable giving. I had experienced how much impact my time and training could have on individuals and society and there was no going back.
My experience with the Keyes family and the “I Love U Guys” Foundation was later instrumental in my acceptance into Leadership Denver, a program that provides an opportunity to explore and learn how to address the biggest social issues facing Denver with 55 peers from the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
I’ve served on a number of boards and worked on many initiatives since graduating form Leadership Denver. My current passion and the focus of my own volunteerism and charitable giving is food security. I currently volunteer and donate because I want everyone to have enough to eat…locally, nationally, globally.
Christina Bowen is Good Done Great’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships based out of Denver, CO.