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Our 4th of July Parade Success!!!

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WOW, did the month of June fly by or what?? In my last blog post I announced what our concept was for this year's Independence Day parade float — seemingly two seconds later and now it's over and we're a week into July already! Unbelievable!

...Let's talk about it!!

I'm editing a new YouTube video now to show all the behind-the-scenes of how we made our mama and baby elephant floats, but suffice it to say, it was a lot of work!

A HUGE thank you to those of you who helped me get some of the key materials we needed to make these floats as light and as sturdy as possible!!

Because Brock was going to be the sole muscle in moving the entire mama elephant, including articulating the legs, this couldn't be a heavy or solid creature. The army camouflage netting we used turned out to be the perfect combination of lightweight, permeable, see-through (from the inside), but still able to create the visible mass we needed! And as a bonus, I loved that it made these animals look a bit like stuffed animals (especially the baby!). Don't you just want to give the little guy a hug? :)

How We Did It

A frequently-asked question this last month: "How are you going to transport the elephants to and from the parade?" Incredibly, Brock pulled the big mama (which you all named Ellie!) from our house all the way to the parade staging area, through the parade route, and then all the way home! Ellie couldn't fit on a truck, she was simply too big! I'd been telling Brock all week to take it easy at the gym and at work (he is a stunt performer) because I couldn't afford for him to get hurt! No one else could have done what he did that day!

And we couldn't have done the parade without extra help! My parents and my youngest sister Rebecca drove down from out-of-state and arrived the night before to help us during the parade. My dad drove our car in front, Rebecca pushed the baby elephant (which you all named Peanut!) and passed out candy, while my mom and I (with Damian) hurriedly handed out over 1,000 flyers along the parade route!

Damian meanwhile did SO well! He loves being outside, going on walks, and being around people, so he was very happy for the vast majority of the parade route (he decided at the very end of the parade that he was done! Perfect timing!). Before his developmental regression began in 2021, his favorite thing was to go around waving at everyone and everything - we were constantly told by friends and family that someday he was going to be a parade performer!

The Response!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I LOVE our community. They have time and time again shown up to events and fundraisers for Damian's campaign and have expressed their support for us even when we're out and about running errands (people recognize our car magnets!). Part of the registration for the parade is writing a small script for the parade announcers to read over the loud speakers (they have about 6 booths along the route) and I was so touched that at almost every stop the announcers added their own commentary, sometimes doubling and tripling the length of my original script with added information about how to donate and encouraging people to check out my social media to see videos of how our elephants were made.

I am always excited to see how families react to our floats and this year did not disappoint!! My favorite was hearing how people were impressed by the sheer size of the mama elephant and then hearing little squeals of surprise a little later, "Ohhh!! There's a BABY too!!" Ellie and Peanut were a hit and I couldn't be happier with everyone's reaction! We even had people run out into the street to scan the QR code on our car, grab a flyer, or even donate cash on the spot! People are so good!!!

Our social media impact

As fun and amazing as it was to see the reactions of people on the streets to our parade entry, I gotta say... I was not expecting the massive reaction we got on social media to the reels I made as we made progress making these floats. It's probably no surprise that the vast majority of our campaign's success comes from putting video content online, but it couldn't be more obvious now that the best performing content is when I'm making stuff. Check out these numbers!!

Number of reels made for social media related to making the parade float: 14

Combined number of views on all 14 reels on Instagram: 1,451,400

Combined number of views on all 14 reels on Facebook: 743,400

Number of individual accounts reached in the last month on Instagram: 620,000

It seems pretty clear to me that the creative, crafty route is the way to go to continue growing this campaign - which is very encouraging because it brings me a lot of joy to be doing projects like this!

I haven't done all the math yet on how much money was raised in the past month from our efforts on the parade float, but I'll be working on adding everything to our GoFundMe over the next couple days - so keep checking our campaign for updates!!!

So What's Next??

Believe it or not, we have another very big week this week!!

Damian and I are taking a road trip to Utah this week for the National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation's annual conference for patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers! ASMD, Damian's disease, is historically known as Niemann-Pick Disease Type A, and the foundation holds a conference every year, but this is the first time in awhile that is being held on the west-ish side of the United States, so this will be my very first time going (in person!). I'm excited to meet and visit with parents like myself and especially excited to meet with our campaign's beneficiary, the Wylder Nation Foundation, and some of the key researchers and scientists that are developing the lifesaving treatment we are funding. We talk to them often on the phone, but it will be extra meaningful to see them in person of course!

When we get back, among a lot of doctor's appointments, it will finally be time to give our "Please Save Damian" shirts a long-awaited refresh! I'm hoping I can figure out how to get some colored shirts in the mix, along with the highly requested shirts in kids sizes!

Also, I don't know about you but I can't get over how cute Peanut is! I keep sketching him in my notebook and I think creatively I'm just not done with him yet...

Stay tuned! It's going to be another creative month!!


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