Due to the COVID-19 epidemic we have cancelled our regular Affiliate Tournament.
Instead, we held an entirely online V-Celebration of Creativity, on April 4th.
April 4, 2020
Dear friends of NYDI:
It’s hard to believe that just five weeks ago, at the beginning of March, I was in the throes of organizing our NY Eastern Regional Tournament. Teams were preparing their solutions; Challenge Masters were training their Appraisers, and I, as Tournament Director, was busy, making sure that we had all the supplies, all the printed material, and all the volunteers that we needed, in place so that the Tournament would be a success.
A week later we were thinking, OK, perhaps we should limit the number of spectators. A day after that we decided on teams and Appraisers only. And just a few more days after that, we realized that an in-person Tournament would not be possible at all. We thought perhaps we could have a V-Tournament in which each team would perform via video call in front of online Appraisers (we put a lot of effort into that idea) — but then we realized that even this would be unsafe, in face of the virus. Other Affiliates were also cancelling their Tournaments. What was now known as COVID-19 seemed to have won.
The sense of loss was palpable. We were all grief stricken that the teams that had put so much into their solutions would not be able to present them. We were also devastated that we, as Appraisers and Tournament Officials and leaders in our DI Affiliates would not be able to come together, as we had done so many years in the past, to celebrate, acknowledge, and reward the creativity of the teams who solved our Challenges. We missed the teams, and we missed our colleagues.
But out of the ashes of our Tournament came this new idea — an online Virtual Celebration — in which teams could come together online, from the safety of their own individual homes. It wouldn’t be a proper rigorous Tournament, but it would be a way for our teams, who had worked so hard, to present SOMETHING to Appraisers, and a way for Appraisers, to join in solidarity and give acknowledgment and thanks for the work that the teams had done.
The idea started to gain steam amongst our corps of New York volunteers, and then the word was out! Suddenly we had volunteers from all over the world. It was an amazing demonstration of solidarity and support. And once we started to invite teams to register, we were amazed that an incredible 48 of New York’s 93 teams — coming from every Challenge — wanted to participate.
Now it was time to solve this massive Instant Challenge! Countless hours were spent in conference calls and in chat rooms discussing how this would work. Ideas were shared far and wide within NYDI, and with eager supporters from around the DI world. Technical solutions of all kinds were considered, discussed, tested, and compared. Alumni, Appraisers from multiple Affiliates, Challenge Masters and International Challenge Masters, tech gurus, and officials from DI Inc. all weighed in on what might work, what might not, and provided immeasurable guidance and support. Not only did we have enough Appraisers lined up, we had an excess! Not only did we have a technical solution, we had one that would score well!
In the meantime, teams started adjusting and adapting their solutions, figuring out what would work in this new context. Some decided to actually present their solution remotely. Some planned to tell a story about their solution. Some just planned to show up and wing it.
And so, in just two weeks, we went from cancelling all of our NYDI Tournaments to today: Our NYDI V-Celebration of Creativity.
From Tournament Headquarters at my home in Croton-on-Hudson, where I was logged into three chat rooms and seven simultaneous video conferences (one for each Challenge and also a break-out room for Appraisers), I saw a constant parade of teams logging in and having a great time presenting their solutions, or at least talking about what their solution would have been. Yes, there were some tough moments here and there, but it was working! The kids were obviously having a great time, and so were our Appraisers. We saw amazing evidence of how much the teams had learned, how much they had grown, and of the skills they had acquired. We saw strong teamwork — even though team members were physically separated. We saw commitment — even though there was no other Tournament to reach, and there were no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place medals being awarded. We saw creativity — even in these difficult times. It was truly beautiful.
The V-Celebration was an unqualified success.
And so, now, I would like to thank those who made all of this possible:
- Sue Brailey (NY Affiliate Director), Jon Brennan (NY Western Regional Director and NYDI Board Co-Chair), and Dawn DiCicco (NYDI Board Co-Chair and Alumni Coordinator) for being my braintrust, spending more hours planning with me on chat and video conferences than is easily imaginable; and,
- The Board of Trustees of NYDI for putting their trust in us, approving this crazy scheme; and,
- All of our New York Challenge Masters, who went from doing something that is very proscribed with very clear and defined rules (a regular DI Tournament), to something completely new and unique with rules made up along the way (the V-Celebration) in just two weeks; and,
- The five current or former International Challenge Masters and the Challenge Writers who joined our team and provided immeasurable guidance; and,
- The 21 out-of-state Appraisers who joined us from at least 15 different Affiliates; and,
- All of the New York Appraisers who stuck with us even though, unlike a regular tournament, we were not providing free lunch; and,
- The Destination Imagination, Inc. staff and trustees, including Executive Director Michele Tuck-Ponder, Board of Trustees Chair Louise Liddle, Director of Affiliate Relations Adam Law, and Director of Strategic Initiatives and Events Paige Curtis, who provided guidance, and who visited our online event today; and,
- Google’s video conferencing team, for allowing us to use Google Hangouts Meet at no cost, and for graciously allowing us to use some important not-yet-released-to-the-public features so that we could share teams’ videos with the audience; and
- All of our Team Managers and Coordinators, who supported their teams to continue doing amazing things even in these difficult times; and,
- Most importantly, every team and every team member who participated! It is because of you that we do all of this. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for every laugh, for every tear, for every idea, for your teamwork, and for your perseverance, in presenting to us today. I love you all, and I hope to see you all next year!
May you all be safe and healthy, and may we all be together in-person at this time next year.
NYDI Regional Tournament Director NYDI Affiliate Tournament Director NYDI V-Tournament Director
NYDI V-Celebration of Creativity Director