Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our Journey to Kona

As many of you are well aware, we have been actively spreading the word and searching for votes for our Kona Inspired video.  When I use the word "we", I'm referring to the literally hundreds, and quite possibly, thousands or supporters from around the world! 

But first, a quick recap.  In March, Ironman announced a contest called Kona Inspired.  They gave the general public the opportunity to submit a 90 second video following the Ironman mantra, "Anything is Possible".  Winners receive a coveted slot to race in the Ironman World Championship in Kona on October 13th, but most importantly, they will race as a media athlete, getting the opportunity to share their story to a national audience.

When I first read this announcement, I immediately thought of all the good exposure and awareness this could create for the many children with down syndrome living in orphanages and mental institutions throughout the world.  I wasn't exactly sure how we were going to do this, but it felt right, so I proceeded.

My history with Kona actually started last year.  Andrea and I flew into Kona the week of the Ironman World Championship to visit her parents who were living on the Big Island at the time.  It worked out perfectly to spend some quality time with her parents who we missed dearly, as well as participate as spectators of the Ironman. 

Waiting at the finish line.

This is Chris McCormack, 2010 Ironman World Champion.  I highly recommend his book, "I'm here to Win."  In it, he talks about racing for a cause.

The day before the race when athletes were checking their bikes into T1

At the time, I had never done a full Ironman.  I had watched a full Ironman live and participated in a few Ironman 70.3 events, but something was different about Kona.  I left that day somewhat frustrated to be honest.  I had felt something during that race, but I couldn't exactly identify what it was or what it meant.  It was something special, but still very unclear.  I felt there was something bigger that I could be a part of, but I didn't have any idea what it was going to be.  Less than 30 days from returning home from Hawaii, Andrea and I were introduced to Reece's Rainbow.  Two months later, Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome was born.  About that time, Ironman announced the Kona Inspired competition.  Coincidence?  Not a chance.  I know with conviction that all things happen for a reason.  I know that if we have a desire to serve our fellow man, that God will give us the opportunity to do so.

The Video

The ideas on how to put the video together came in waves.  For a couple of weeks as I thought about how the video should be done, an idea would come to mind, I'd hurry and write it down, and go back to doing what I was doing.  First the dialogue that we all have come to know so well, "My name is Brady Murray, and this is my son Nash...".  I bet a lot of you can recite that entire video word for word!  Then some of the footage ideas started to come.  Reece's Rainbow helped me with some awesome pictures of the children and a friend took some great still shots in Oceanside when we were down there for the race.  The song on the other hand wasn't as easy.  After a few weeks of searching, I finally sat down at the computer one day and pulled up my entire playlist of songs in ITunes and started listening to every song, one by one.  Nothing seemed to be the right fit, then I played "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey.  I immediately knew this was the one! 

So the video in theory was done!  The only problem was I had no idea how to actually make a video.  That's when another friend came up with a wonderful idea!  He was in the process of negotiating some air time for his company on Channel 2 here in Boise to do a commercial.  He approached Channel 2 and asked them if they would be open to donating some time to put our video together.  They agreed and Nash and I made our way down to the studio!  The video was done and it turned out great! Thanks Jenessa and Channel 2! Time to submit my entry!

The Contest

Our video was submitted on April 18th.  At the time, there were around 25 videos already submitted.  I had no idea how this was going to work out, but it still felt like it was meant to be so we proceeded with faith. 

The next 45 days were pretty hectic.  Each day, more and more great videos were being added to the contest.  When the final day for entry finally arrived, there were 105 videos submitted!  The only life line we had to track whether or not we were a favorite to be chosen for the finals were the amount of views that each of the videos had.  We were #4 out of 105. 

The day after the initial voting period ended, I received an email from Ironman stating that I had been selected as 1 of 15 finalists to compete in a two week finals voting period starting June 4 and running through June 18.  Progress!!  June 4th came and the finals began.  Little did I know just what we were in for the next 2 weeks.

The Finals

We started out good, and really the first week went great!  Our views were either in first or second the entire 1st week.  Out of the 15 videos, we needed to be in the top 2 so things looked good.  Around the end of week 1, that changed.  The 3rd place video began to catch up in a hurry.  Not only did they catch up, but out of nowhere, they passed us in views!!  It was time to dig deep and dig deep we did.  I found myself waking up at 5am each morning and skipping my workout to try and put something together that day to drive our views.  After a full day at work, I'd immediately head back to the computer to work on the campaign until late that night.  This went on for the entire final week and I wasn't alone.  I was amazed at just how many incredible supporters were doing the same.  The first week our views were around 60,000.  The second week we were averaging 30,000- 40,000 views per day!  The bad news is we never could separate ourselves from the other two leading videos.  It was maddening to say the least! 

Andrea was such an incredible support through all of this.  There were lots of meals at the computer and some stressful times, but she always had a smile.  That made it much easier to be able to focus on driving the votes.
Feeling that we needed to continue this push I started to make some calls to see what we could come up with.  The first person I called was Angela Redding.  Angela lives down the street from us and is well known as someone who gets things done!  She didn't disappoint.  Within 48 hours she had planned a community event that turned out to be a huge success because of our volunteers and our sponsors.  She also put me in touch with Michael Nelson who quickly got me on the Kevin Miller show as well as made sure that Channel 7 was well aware of our story along with the many others who sent emails and visited the stations asking them to share our story.

The momentum was building and things were looking good with only a few days to go.  That's when I got an email from Ironman.  The email was addressed to all 1st Round Contestants.  It stated that it appeared that there had been some fraudulent voting taking place that was computer generated.  They believed that the contestant that this was being generated for was unaware of the situation, but that if it didn't stop, they would be disqualified.  Wow, now this was drama! 

I posted to my Facebook the email from Ironman and then replied to the email letting Ironman know that I was unaware of anyone doing this for me.  They quickly replied back and said that our video was not one that was suspected of this.  Very good news!!  They also made a note that views didn't necessarily equate to votes.  Votes were only counted 1 vote per computer every 24 hours.  We had 48 hours left before the contest ended and we all went to work getting as many votes from as many different computers as possible.

The magic hour of 10 pm on the final day finally arrived.  I have a whole new respect for any politician on the campaign trail.  I had no idea what goes into this and the emotion that is felt.  The highs and lows are dramatic to say the least!  I also know that it takes a team to make this happen.  It is impossible for one person to go win something like this alone. 

I didn't think we would hear back from Ironman until Tuesday so I was prepared to be patient.  Luckily within 30 minutes of the contest ending, I received an email stating that we had won!  Upon reading the email, Andrea and I hugged a huge hug!  The emotions came quickly as I knew that the entire collective efforts of so many had paid off.  Flashbacks of Kona no more than 9 months ago came rushing into my mind.  I remembered those feelings that came that day because they were back.  There IS something bigger out there.  Something that is not about me.  This is ALL about these kids!  They need our help and we are so lucky to get to be a small part of this incredible blessing for them!   We did it!  We are going to Race for Orphans with Down Syndrome in Kona!

Our Team

As I've stated, this happened because of the collective efforts of so many coming together to become caught up in something bigger than any one person.  This was a group of people getting caught up in a cause!

The support has come from so many!  I'd like to mention the ladies at Reece's Rainbow who have quickly become like family.  Can you say AWESOME!  I knew that advocates for Reece's Rainbow were passionate, but I had no idea just how passionate they really are.  All I can say is WOW and THANK YOU!  You are all amazing!

Another avenue of incredible support came from my always supportive family.  I know that I'll really never know just how much time and effort each of you put into this contest.  Actually, I do know that my Mom dedicated her entire life to making this happen during the finals and I bet there were many of you who weren't that far off!  Thank you Mom, and thank you my wonderful family!

One of the wonderful byproducts of this contest that I didn't fully expect was the support that came from dear friends.  Friends who I talk to regularly and my dear friends who we've lost track with each other over the years, but through the miracle of social media, we were able to reconnect.  This reconnection with my friends of old was something I didn't expect, but has become among my most cherished parts of this contest.  I'm proud to be able to continue to call you my friend.  A special thanks to each of you.

The media has also been a very powerful tool to share our story with many people we never would have been able to reach otherwise.  It's wonderful to see that power put to such good use these last few weeks.  You can read the many stories from the last few months HERE.  I'd also like to recognize my employer, Allegis Financial Partners and One America who also played a big part in making this possible.

And of course all the support that came from people who I may never meet, but that answered the call to help.  I can only hope that our path's will cross again in the future and that I can return the favor for all your support.

By The Numbers

Total Views During the Semi Finals  24,671
Total Views During the Finals  214,588
Total Donations earned by our followers during the finals $2,565
Total Children/Families donated to during the finals 34
Total RODS Racing T Shirts given away 24

I want to end by saying that I believe this is only the beginning!  We have learned that together we can move mountains for these kids.  I believe we have only seen a glimpse of what will be done by this group for these kids in the future.  For now, enjoy the victory.  You deserve it!  As for me, I better not relax too much.  I have an Ironman to train for!!! 


Andrea said...

Good job getting this cazy voting and campaning experience written honey! I read it and was excited thinking now that all the voting maddness is over, I'll start blogging again. But then I went downstair a found that just while I was reading your post Nash plugged the tub in the guest bathroom downstairs and left the water running fortunately I found it just inches before it began running over the top. Unfortunately that's the tub where I store a years supply of extra toilet paper. He's sitting on my lap now. Maybe you should start doing our family blog too! I love you!

Becky said...

Andrea! That is hilarious (and sad!)! I think Jake and Nash could get into some serious trouble together! This was a beautiful post to read, I couldn't help but choke up thinking about it all.

Becky said...

P.S. I am so jealous you got to meet Chris McCormack! He is awesome!

Kim Tracy said...

I am so grateful to have been allowed to be a part of this journey. I am still so exicted beyond words that you are going to Kona......Words can't even begin to express how much I enjoyed helping.

Mardee said...

SO PROUD OF YOU BOTH!! I am committed to this cause, and will do ANYTHING to help at any time! I think this is your blog from now on!Or...print it all and make a journal from this entire experience for Nash to see when he is older!

Ray said...

Wow! Way to go Brady! We are so proud of what you have accomplished so far indvidiually and representing Reese's Rainbows. We were nervous for you too as you dropped from the top, but you and all of your supporters did it! Congratulations on this success!

The Suzzzz said...

What a great story, congratulations! I am taking my 90 year old father to Kona in October and we will be there during Ironman. We'll be cheering for you! Please post your race number here when you get it so we can look for you.