Reflections on Organizing the 1st Annual Princess Warrior Walk of 2012
By: Evan VanErp
Reflecting on the Princess Warrior Walk planning from over nine years ago really gets me thinking, how the heck did we do that? We just took the ideas and dreams of Jane, and really ran with them with the guidance of Jil and her family. Creating an event out of thin air in three weeks seems like a daunting task for me now at 26, let alone four 17- year-old high school kids. Not only were we all full time students with homework, but also student athletes going to practice every day after school and preparing for Volleyball games, Tennis Matches and Friday Night football games. We also were navigating around the excitement of a brand new high school opening, looking back there was so much going on.
I remember a main part of my role was on the fundraising and donations side during our ramp up to the event. I would drive around town during student service hour, lunch hour and free period to Wadena area businesses asking for support/donations for the event and fundraising. I remember our teachers were so supportive of us as well, if we ever needed to leave or be late for class because of the event they didn’t blink an eye. There were definitely days leading up to the day of the walk that we didn’t even go to class!
We did depend on a lot of support from other students, community and school volunteers to help out with the event. Some other seniors helped out with the younger elementary students during the event, teachers helped serve pie, Wadena police helped direct traffic and get us across streets safely.
In any event that spreads school and community wide there will always be challenges. If I can give any advice to students organizing any type of event or project, it would be to have a vision and stick to it. Collaborate with your team and problem solve with those that are dedicated to it and are responsible for making it successful. I remember we had to stay strong in our vision of how We/Jane wanted the walk to be and work within what we could logistically do. We didn’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, but needed volunteer help with lots of different things.
There were question marks of how/who would cut the pies due to using knives around elementary students. I’m pretty sure we even had to get waivers signed in advance for students to leave school and participate. Let alone the stressful logistics of safely walking with (1,000?) students and adults outside the classroom and follow a route in downtown Wadena in the middle of the work day. There were so many things we learned along the way that go into an event like this. My point of bringing up these challenges is that in any great thing you do in life, work or school, there will always be a bumpy ride to the destination even when you feel like it’s all well mapped out.
Being a part of the team for this inaugural event really made us realize what we are capable of in this world. I think it made us better at organization, collaboration, patience and becoming better young men and women. This event was on my resume for years through college and helped all four of us in getting into colleges, interview talking points and winning scholarships. This event’s planning and execution made a lasting impact on my life in ways that I am still using. Learning how to handle adversity, meet deadlines, and problem solve in a group just to name a few. To see our three weeks of hard work spark an annual event, scholarship and Foundation is surreal. I’m excited to be able to participate in the event again and humbled we were all asked to give our reflections on the original walk as it still holds a spot in all of our hearts.
About the Author: Evan VanErp graduated from WDC in 2013. He was one of the original four National Honor Society students who helped plan and execute the first Princess Warrior 5K ten years ago.