Posted by: morrowsl | November 18, 2015

What We Do

Back in the spring I agreed to join my sister, niece, and a family friend as volunteers for a bike ride (You Wanna Fight?) sponsored by Sam’s Clubs and benefiting Multiple Sclerosis.  We knew a couple of riders on one of the bike teams and the people in their support group who were manning a rest stop.
That day I learned a lot about volunteerism.  And MS.  And people.

And I came away knowing this would be a cause I would actively support for as long as there is a need for me to do so.

A couple of months ago, phase two began.  It was time to get ready for the “big” event.  I joined a group of folks painting and hammering and sawing their way through a number of signs and structures that would become the games and decorations for Meat Fight 2015.

Meat Fight.  So many things might come to mind, so I’ll just use this space to explain and we’ll move on.
Meat Fight is the name given to a friendly little backyard barbecue event created by Alice and Mike Laussade wherein they convinced their friends and family to cook many meats and compete to see who cooked them best.  That was five years ago.  What has happened in the years since is nothing short of a miracle.  And it is everything you would hope would happen when you combine great food and a worthy cause.

The best part about being included in the building of the props for Meat Fight is getting to watch artists and craftspeople turning ideas into realities.  The second best part is watching the wheels turn as new ideas get pitched and someone takes off with them.

But the greatest, most unexpected part, is listening to first-hand accounts of what lives are like when the person living the life has multiple sclerosis.  And learning how much something as simple as riding a bicycle can alter those lives.

At the second “build” party I sat at a table where I’m pretty sure I was the only person who didn’t have MS or have a family member with it.  We were drawing and coloring sausages and ribs and burgers to decorate Christmas trees with.  And plenty of bawdy jokes were definitely being told.  But the topic kept going back to MS.  What drugs had been tried and what side effects were experienced.  How insurance companies had handled the costs and acceptance of medications.  What physical limitations had resulted from not only having MS, but from dealing with the side effects of the meds and the stress of fighting the insurance companies.
I came away with a far greater appreciation for what can really screw up a day.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with the decorations on a disposable coffee cup or what some local politician has decided is or is not going to happen in “my” town.

It’s blurred vision.  Or vision loss.  It’s trying to maintain balance.  Or trying to make your legs or arms work at all.  It’s loss of memory.  Or slurred speech.  It’s numbness or tremors.  Or lost comprehension.  It’s exhaustion.  And pain.  And it’s any of these, on their own or in combination, that may be present today and gone tomorrow only to come back in a week or a month or whenever.  And any one of these things might be a difficulty, but when added to the normal stresses of a life compounded by side effects that might be bald spots or feeling like you’re getting the flu, or depression, or thinking you’re having a heart attack…

Can I just say that anything you’ve dealt with today is something any number of these people might have gladly taken on in lieu of what they’re dealing with today?

Last Friday I drove over to the site of Meat Fight 2015 to see what I could do to help get things set up for Sunday’s event.  The site was a huge lime-green warehouse in a shady section of West Dallas that wants very much to see a rebirth.  There were a dozen or so people doing various and sundry tasks, most to do with unloading trucks and cleaning and sweeping up and figuring out where stuff would go for the different areas of activity.
I went back on Saturday and watched in amazement as the real transformation began.  A stage was built and lights strung, tables set up and covered, the signs that were painted back in the summer were screwed to their supports and set in place to create a midway of games.  Banners and advertisements were hung.  Three Christmas trees were assembled and decorated.  Santa’s sleigh was assembled with a beautiful backdrop that was just being designed the last time I saw it.  There were stockings to stuff and swag bags to fill and t-shirts to fold and firewood to stack.
By the time I got home I was literally dragging my right leg alongside my body.  My feet were almost too sore to put weight on.  My back ached.  I had a headache.
And I couldn’t wait to return and see the whole thing in all its Meat Fight glory!

Sunday dawned overcast and a bit gloomy.  Rain was in the forecast and it was cool.  The stories from Meat Fight 2014, along with photographic evidence, suggest that rain and gray skies would be cake compared to the snow and bone-chilling damp they’d endured.  I packed a backpack and took off for the big green warehouse.
Walking from the parking lot I got a full-on super nose-hit of wood smoke and cooking meat that literally carried me across the street and plopped me down just inside the chain link enclosure housing the meat magicians and their wares.  Two thoughts slammed into my caffeine-deprived brain.
One, I should have eaten breakfast.
Two, this is what Heaven will smell like.

Because I was a Meat Fight virgin and had no clue what was about to take place, I sort of followed other people around waiting to be told what to do.  Thankfully, there were smarter and better prepared folks to guide my silly self in the directions needed.  I was on the swag team.  The day before, I’d even seen Swag Bag Mountain and knew there were a lot of bags to transfer from the storage area to the floor.  Again, thankfully, there were others who took the needed action.  Three eight foot tables topped with swag and almost a dozen huge boxes later, we were ready for people to start piling in the door.

The vendors began arriving and setting up.  The Meat Midway games were assembled and decorated.  Meat Santa’s sleigh, complete with a team of pigs to guide it, was ready and waiting.  The air was charged with a festive excitement and all the busy people were laughing and happy.  No Black Friday was ever this good!

And then, pandemonium!!  VIPs began to file in and my niece and partner in swag, Mitzi, arms draped in swag bags, greeted and directed them toward the merchandise area to buy shirts and hats and coupons for the midway.  I made sure they knew there was a glass in their bags (the better for drinking beer from) and advised them to sign up for the raffle (a Big Green Egg) and auction (many great items).  An hour later the General Admission folks were beginning to bunch up at the door.  I spent a lot of time with my head under the tables and my backside in the air, but eventually all the boxes had been emptied and all the patrons swagged.  Life was good!!

We took some time to sample from the vendors nearby and life got even better.  The booth for Hypnotic Donuts was directly behind me and they had stacks of maple-bacon donuts that I wanted oh-so-much to faceplant directly into.  I am currently looking for an excuse to drive over there and buy them out.

The competition for Meat Master in each category was held and judged.  The Midway games brought cheers and jeers.  Meat Santa posed in his Bacon Sleigh for photos.  Elves scurried hither and yon.  And everywhere, there was laughter and joy.
Finally, the time came to announce the winners of the competition and to hand out the awards.  Find the competition results here.  The auction began and many monies were paid out for a variety of prizes, not the least of which was a hand-crafted smoker built by Austin’s own Aaron Franklin.
In the end, Meat Fight 2015 bested its previous record by half, raising $150,000 to benefit Multiple Sclerosis and to purchase bikes for people with MS.  There are several accounts of the night from various publications on the Meat Fight Facebook page, found here, along with photos taken throughout the event.
At the end of the night I was once more dragging my right leg alongside my body and taking mental notes to help prepare for next time – buy better shoes, drink more water, eat early even if you have to stand in line – but I was so very happy to have been a part of such an amazing event.
Thanks, Mitzi, for suggesting we volunteer in the first place.  And for being the one person who gets my bossy!!

 


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