Friday, July 1, 2011

Through the Eyes of an Intern...


Hillary Brady, intern extraordinaire, joined our team for the summer. And lucky for her - one of Hillary's first days at the office was spent at the park!   Hear what our intern thought of her very first time at the Central Park Challenge!

"During the first few days on any job, you’re bound to shake a lot of hands and try to put a bunch of new faces to names—lucky for me, one of my first new friends as an intern at YAI has her face all across the city, on everything from subway signs to towering billboards overlooking the streets.

“Who’s this?” Xi’Xi asked me, cutting right to the chase, perched and alert in a stroller outside the CBS Early Show studio where a group of YAI employees and consumers held up posters bearing her likeness.

While Xi’Xi might not have yet known who I was, I knew all about her—her inspirational story; the photos of her, beaming, as she took triumphant steps down the hallway at Gramercy preschool; laughing alongside YAI spokesperson Sherri Shepherd on public service announcements for the Central Park Challenge, an annual event that she was chosen to be the face of this year. I knew all about Xi’Xi, and the role that YAI had played in fostering her spirit and giving her the opportunity to learn and grow. It wasn’t until my first Central Park Challenge, though, that I got to see what that really meant beyond Xi’Xi’s story and what I already knew about YAI—to see the idea of opportunity in action and to see the impact of those first shaky steps on the tile floor of a preschool.

My day at CPC (an acronym I quickly developed an affinity for using after my first day on the job) was unique in that I got the opportunity to experience it not for myself, but for those around me. I was paired with the YAI media team, who were interviewing participants, sponsors and consumers on what made their day at Central Park such a unique experience. Their answers varied—some had been coming for years, others were just earning their first CPC walkers’ T-shirts—but all allowed me the chance to see this event through many sets of eyes. No matter what one’s perspective was about the day or their affiliation to the YAI Network, one thing was clear: the incredible, infectious, enthusiasm and affection for the people, the agency and the afternoon.

The best parts of my day were observing, on the sidelines with a camera and a pen, and listening as two YAI consumers got the chance to take the reporter’s microphone and ask the questions for themselves. The experience, for them and for me, seemed almost metaphoric for the great work that YAI does for the people that it serves—it gives them the chance to speak up, to ask questions and get answers, and the opportunity to act independently. It gives all of us, whether we are a person with a disability or not, to work together for a common passion and to make others take notice.

The way that the Central Park Challenge affected its participants was most evident, to me, in the small moments. It was more than a large-scale and effective fundraiser. It was one of the interviewers, Erica, hugging Sherri after getting to talk to her in person after being a fan watching on television. It was a small crowd of consumers, advocates and family dancing to a Black Eyed Peas song as the event wound down. It was teams of families and friends wearing matching shirts, homemade and detailing the loved one who their effort was dedicated toward. It was face-painted children lining up for their turn at the Jr. All American race. And, of course, it was Xi’Xi, walking around, greeting her fans, not for a second looking like a child whose ability to walk was ever in question.

I never thought my first few days at the office would bring me to the Early Show at 7 a.m., to Central Park to see YAI’s mission in practice, or to shake Xi’Xi’s hand. Then again, I hadn’t ever gotten the opportunity before this weekend to attend the Central Park Challenge—a day that helped solidify why I wanted to be a part of the YAI team and made me see firsthand the way that it impacts people’s lives. I’ll surely know better for next year."