by Geraldine Gatehouse | September 23, 2014
Earlier this month, the SITE Classic 2014 took place at the award-winning Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, in Marana, AZ, and as always, there was a corporate social responsibility (CSR) component incorporated into this increasingly successful event.

In 2013, the hands-on portion of the program was very popular, which inspired the Site Classic committee to offer two opportunities this year. The 2014 sponsor was Visit Tucson and the chosen charities were Ben's Bells and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

Ben's Bells are clay bells adorned with brightly colored ceramic beads and tiles. The mission of the bells is to inspire, educate, and motivate people to realize the powerful impact of intentional kindness.

Ben's Bells founder Jeannette Maré started making and decorating the bells to cope with the tragic loss of Ben, one of her two children. Since her son's death, the kindness of strangers, friends, and others helped Maré begin to heal. On the first anniversary of Ben's death, hundreds of Ben's Bells were distributed throughout Tucson, hung randomly in trees, on bike paths, and in parks with a written message to simply take one home and pass on the kindness.

Most importantly, Ben's Bells cannot be bought--one must be lucky enough to find a bell or be "belled." The bells continue to be hung regularly and randomly throughout the year in public spaces throughout Tucson, as well as in five other communities across the nation. On the program arrival day at Site Classic attendees had the opportunity to make and decorate coins and beads which are incorporated into the bells.

The second CSR option at Site Classic was to solicit donations for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and decorate bandanas for rescue dogs to wear at Humane Society adoption events. The organization receives no private funding, so it was very appreciative of the donated items, cash, and gift cards, all of which totaled more than $7,200. It was like the holiday season in the summer! Boxes of items arrived in advance and donations were piled high by the end of registration day. VIP Canine Ambassadors were on hand to meet, greet, and network with the attendees and to thank them for lending a paw.

Attendees worked together to create messages and decorate the bandanas with hearts, doggy stickers, and flowers. It was great fun, and the hands-on activity was a very personalized experience. The Humane Society also took all the signage that was used for the Site Classic, which was a great sustainability bonus. The signage will be used for children's art projects and other Humane Society of Southern Arizona events.

One additional special feature of this CSR activity was the involvement of the host hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain.

"The idea came together as we focused on our more than 400 employees at the resort and thought if we can just get a fraction of those people to donate something, this could make a huge impact for the overall event," said Paul Canez, director of national accounts for The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. "Instead of a plain box to collect items, we decided to make it special and decorate it. To be more personal, we sent out an email to the entire hotel and ask for each employee's best pet pictures. The response was tremendous, and thus we decorated the box with many of our employees' pets, making it that much more meaningful."

"Some of the things the hotel did were to post flyers around the hotel and present our idea at leadership and departmental meetings throughout the property," Canez added. "Additionally, on Sept. 5, two days prior to the official start of the Classic, we really energized the event by having a meet and greet with several of our employees' animals as they arrived to work that day. As our employees entered the property, every hour for three hours, we brought in another pet for people to meet. As the employees passed by we also handed out sugar cookies shaped like dog biscuits for each employee to take with them. This acted as a reminder to bring a donation, and get them energized and excited to host the 2014 Site Classic."

The ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain contributed close to $700 worth of food, toys, and other pet items. This was the first time Site Classic has engaged hotel staff to contribute in this way.

Hands-on events are also great networking opportunities. Meeting old friends and making new ones, as well as working and contributing together for a larger cause, combines to create a special experience. We look forward to continuing this CSR tradition at Baha Mar in the Bahamas, where the Site Classic will be held in 2015.

Geraldine Gatehouse is an independent incentive and event planner, writer and instructor, with a passionate belief in the value and potential global impact of CSR. She is also the Western Region Marketing Consultant for IMEX America. She is based in Southern California, is the 2014 SITE SoCal President-Elect, 2014 2015 MPISCC Chair, Strategic Projects, and the 2014 SITE Classic 2014 committee member responsible for CSR. She can be reached at [email protected] or via her website,LinkedIn, or Twitter.