Two days prior to our trip, there was an odd sense of peace that overtook the group. We still had camera equipment to prep, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, crafts to set up, and a hall to decorate. But despite all of this, there was peace. This was a tremendous precursor to what laid ahead.
Friday morning came faster than expected. Before we knew it, we were on a plane to Alabama – it’s really happening!
At 11:30 a.m. we arrived at the Mobile airport, and after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we needed to make a quick stop at the United Way of Southwest Alabama. It was time to finally meet the team that diligently helped us for so many months!
Once there, we met David and Grace from Boat People SOS – a community-based organization whose mission it is to help the numerous families devastated by the Gulf Oil Spill.
We unloaded the vans as quickly as we possibly could! After that, we eagerly jumped back on the road to catch a glimpse of the Bayou before sundown. David and a few of his friends from Boat People SOS walked us through the havoc wreaked upon this once thriving Alabama town. First Hurricane Katrina, and now this. What more could Bayou La Batre endure?
From inside the vans, we could see water in the distance. As we started our way across the draw bridge, everything was somber. There were abandoned ships, closed boat making facilities, and closed oyster and shrimp cleaning shops. The Bayou was a ghost town. The devastation that we heard so much about was now staring us in the face: sixty percent of families without jobs and nowhere to go…
The next 24 hours were a blur- we were setting up and decorating the hall, gift wrapping presents, prepping the craft stations, setting up Christmas movies to play on a big screen, and making sure Christmas music could be heard by all. By midnight on Friday, we were almost completely set up. Exhausted and emotionally drained (but excited at the same time!), we drove back to our hotel in Mobile to get a few hours of rest before Saturday’s event.
7:00 a.m. came bright and early. Time to regroup with the team for breakfast (we’d need it!) and to go over the final details of the event! Craft tutorials, last minute purchases, snack table setup, and photo station prep…
At 2:00 p.m. the event started. Needless to say, everything couldn’t have gone more perfectly. We had a blast helping the kids make soap snow balls, edible Christmas trees, Christmas angel ornaments, and greeting cards. We’re pretty sure the kids enjoyed it too 😉
Dinner was delicious, Santa was merry, family photos came out great, presents were well received, and fun was had by all – the holiday party was a major success! And the best part, we got to hear some amazingly touching stories of heartache and triumph from many hard working Alabama boating families.
Thank you for following us through this uplifting experience – and stay tuned for great video clips from the entire trip!