What it feels like to win a $50,000 grant in the 2014 Arch Grants competition

With the YouthBridge/SEIC and Arch Grant competitions completed, I decided it was time to disappear for a while, so I took off to Branson. I thought this was an acceptable break after one-and-a-half months of stressful grant submissions. Looking back now, I realize it was closer to four months of stress! No wonder I was so exhausted! After a restful and relaxing time away for a few days, I was ready to return home to St. Louis.

Just as I pulled into a parking lot after returning from my Branson getaway, I got the call letting me know that Made for Freedom would be a recipient of a 2014 Arch Grant. I cried. I couldn't get words out. Ben Burke, who helped administer the competition and was on the other end of the line, asked if I was all right. I was just glad I had pulled off the road and could stop my car to let it sink in. It still hasn't.

Every time I told one of my team, I was flooded with all the emotions again. The first person I saw after hearing the news was our faithful and oh-so-brilliant graphic designer, Ryan Stanley. He looked up as I stood in his office doorway. I tried to smile but could only cry. For a split second he was concerned, but then said, "We won, didn't we?" and gave me a hug. Others were a wide range of WooHoo and Yeah!!! but I must say two of my favorites were TJ Salopek's repeating, "Wow....Wow....Wow" for several minutes, and to top it all off was Mandy Schmitt's celebratory yell, followed by silence, and then an uncharacteristic, "Hot Damn!" Each time I shared the news with one of the team members, it was an entirely new celebration.

So to answer what it feels like to win $50,000...well, I guess it's time to get to work and sell some pants!