Tis the season to be giving. At least that’s what about a hundred of my fellow IT professionals, their families and I were doing this weekend at the Southwest Ohio GiveCamp (SWOGC). GiveCamps have been happening around the country since 2008. Gaslight founding member, Ed Sumerfield organized the first Cincinnati area GiveCamp as a satellite of the Grand Rapids GiveCamp the next year. Matt Brewer picked up the torch when Ed moved to Florida and aided by the most passionate of regional givers has been organizing the annual event ever since.
What It’s All About?
The GiveCamp concept is simple. Organizers search for local charities needing about a weekend’s worth of IT work. Then they solicit sponsors to help pay for it. Finally they recruit local IT talent to donate a weekend’s labor. Of course it’s not quite that simple. Matt and his crew begin planning the following year’s event almost as soon as the current year’s event wraps.
This year was nostalgic for me as I was assigned to the team led by my old Children’s Hospital colleague, Gerard Sychay. I hadn’t written much PHP code since our days at Children’s and Gerard would probably tell you I didn’t write much before either.
Our charity, the HealthCare Connection (HCC) wanted to replace their existing static website with something a bit more dynamic that would be more engaging for visitors. Gerard selected a Wordpress-based solution which required me to clear a few cobwebs in my mind. If nothing else, I was reminded why I enjoy working in Ruby and Rails so much but I digress. I won’t go into the technical challenges we faced. That’s a post for another time. The new HCC site is ready to go but hasn’t been launched yet. We hope it meets the goals they set forth.
It’s Good for What Ails Us!
The first thing you’ll notice about GiveCamps is that there’s far more going on than a bunch of geeks writing code. GiveCamps are horizon broadening experiences that permit you to meet diverse individuals within the IT community and perhaps most importantly those often trapped outside of it. The air at GiveCamps is one of charity and respect.
In light of recent events in the Ruby community and the broader IT community several thoughts stood out this year particularly. First, the gender balance at SWOGC is closer to the general population than is typical of the IT community. I believe this reduces the tendency to obsess about gender. Ignoring any problem seldom produces a positive outcome but neither does obsessing over one. What’s required is action and a few positive examples. SWOGC certainly fulfills those requirements.
Secondly, SWOGC is a family friendly event. There were spouses and children of attendees everywhere. The organizers did a fantastic job providing activities for those not working directly for the charities. This ensured that the teams could work in peace but take breaks with their greatest fans. Rather than being a nuisance the kids were a welcome part of the event. They played, decorated cookies, created and sold handcrafts, helped setup for meals, and more all while steering clear of the work areas except to empty trash cans and deliver freshly decorated cookies. Some elder children even pitched in on the IT work.
By the Numbers
- $180,000 - the approximate value of the labor donated by SWOGC volunteers this weekend
- 12 - the number of charities helped at SWOGC 2013
- 105 - the number of volunteers, organizers and kids pitching in at SWOGC 2013
- $63 - the amount raised by those kids for next year’s GiveCamp
- 2 - the number of volunteers who actually camped in front of the building
- 47 - the approximate number of “fun sized” Snickers® bars I consumed during SWOGC 2013
Why Not Call Them GetCamps?
They say you have to give to get and that the best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. I have to agree. At the closing ceremony each year I sit there with a grin on my face watching the grateful charity representatives rave about the work done by their team of volunteers. I’m happy for them and proud of the sponsors and organizers. If that’s not enough, there are door prizes! Yours truly walked away with a sweet prize donated by event sponsor GitHub. Sitting there and reflecting on the weekend’s activities I feel like I received far more in return for whatever I gave.