Last weekend Porch had the opportunity to exhibit at the Southern Ideal Home Show. I’ve already written about our great experience at the show but I needed to share an extraordinary event that took place during the weekend called the “Parade of Playhomes”. This event, organized by Mike Waite, Executive Director of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) in Charlotte, NC, was visually and emotionally inspiring. I interviewed Mr. Waite about the event:
(Porch): Tell us about the “Parade of Playhomes” design challenge.
(Mike Waite): At the beginning of the year, I was charged with creating a non-dues revenue event for 3rd quarter 2013. My intent was to combine an event that highlighted the skill set of our membership, had a competitive element, included an educational piece (to somehow engage the “next generation” of contractors), and was rooted in philanthropy. This was our first annual “Parade of Playhomes”. I didn’t want to call them “playhouses”, because I thought that sounded too much like the plastic toys you can get from the toy department. Judging was done by experts in several disciplines anonymously over the weekend. Prize categories included: Children’s Choice, Imagination Award, Best Interior Design, Best Architectural Design, Master Craftsman Award, Contractor of the Year – Future Professionals, and the Jim Harkey Memorial Award (the entry that utilized the most NARI members).
How much notice did these teams have prior to the show?
We solicited entries/applications in March, had a May deadline for designs and project statements, invited all eight entries to build in June, and had a delivery deadline of August 22. Unfortunately, during the summer, three of our entries had to bow out due to an overload in business. Next year, I’ll account for summer dropouts and look to invite12 – 15 entries to build.
What surprised you the most when you first saw the actual playhouses?
I was pleasantly surprised by the multiple interpretations of the five entries. They each had their own personality and story, and I loved telling it to as many show patrons as I could.
Tell us about partnering with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the young lady who was special judge.
It was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Girl of the Year” that was our celebrity “Children’s Choice Judge”. Each year, LLS names a boy and a girl that becomes the face of all of their fundraising efforts for the year. I recently met with an LLS board member and staff member discussing something completely unrelated, but the discussion triggered this involvement in our event. Anyway, a 9 year-old local girl, that had been diagnosed with leukemia, gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and a successful bone marrow transplant became our celebrity judge. My intent was to gift the home to her once she made her choice.
So, when she arrived on Saturday, I gave her a ballot and her instructions and told her that the only rule was to choose her favorite. When she made her vote, I told her that her ballot was special and that she had to give it to me, rather than put it in the ballot box. Once she gave it to me, I asked her for her address. When she told me her address, I said, “Okay, that’s where it’ll be on Monday”. That didn’t register with her right away, so her mother said, “Jordan, did you hear what Mr. Mike said? He said that’s your house!” Well this brought momma to tears and Jordan began jumping up and down and squealing…it was awesome! Then she ran in the front door of the playhome, up the ladder to the back deck, leaned over the front of the house and said, “Mommy, take a picture of me in my new house!” I’ll never forget those few minutes in time for the rest of my life. Smiles, laughter, hugs, tears of joy, the whole gamut.
I was there in person when the girl and her mom chose the winning home and then learned that she could bring the playhouse home – definitely an emotional moment. Aside from giving this girl her wish, what do you think was the most rewarding part of this whole experience?
In addition to gifting the playhome to a local girl that has had difficult couple of years, we were able to auction off the remaining four homes, and some of those proceeds will go to scholarships and actual wishes (we are regular Make A Wish “wish granters”). This was a successful first year event, and we will definitely grow the entire effort in years to come.
Do you think this will be a regular part of the show for next year?
Absolutely! We have already talked to Southern Shows about how we would like to do it next year. Plus, during the show, we had numerous members that didn’t participate this year tell us that they will do so next year. Our intent is to expand the student entry portion of the event. I expect to have 12 homes built next year, with at least three of them coming from student entries. We will be highlighting this event at our next Monthly Dinner Meeting, which is this week.