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Sheelah Brennan

CreateAthon: 24 Hours of Work for Non-Profits

Last weekend, I participated in the first CreateAthon in New Mexico, a 24-hour volunteer work session with over 100 participants. I was a bit weary about signing up to basically stay up all night working on a web project, concerned about the quality of work that would result, but it went much better than expected and I’m proud of my team’s work.

CreateAthon is a non-profit organization that helps organize full-day events that deliver pro-bono marketing materials including branding, logos, brochures, social media strategies, and full websites to non-profits in the US and Canada. This was the first CreateAthon held in New Mexico, and it seemed too cool of an opportunity to pass up.

My team worked on marketing materials and a website refresh for Casa Esperanza, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based non-profit that provides a comfortable place for families to stay while their family member receives treatment for illness. Luckily the CreateAthonNM organizers did the tough work prior to the event of breaking up the registrants into teams based on skill sets, so our team was a nice mix of designers and developers.

After figuring out our overall goals and breaking up the work amongst the team members to capitalize on everyone’s strengths, we got to work. My team ended up going with a new WordPress theme and customizing it to match the existing colors and branding of Casa Esperanza, resulting in a site that felt like a refreshed take on the old website with simplified content and a modern feel. At times, there were challenges (overwriting each other’s work due to not using source control for this short project, difficulties in wrangling the theme to do what we wanted, and spotty wifi earlier in the day), but the end result is one my team was proud of. It was difficult to stay awake until our final presentation to our non-profit (10:30am the next morning), but we were rewarded with smiles and a lot of thank-you’s from them upon seeing all that we accomplished. I saw similar results with other team’s presentations, with some even evoking tears of gratitude.

Casa Esperanza site redesign
Casa Esperanza site redesign

I highly recommend participating in a CreateAthon event if the opportunity is available. Bring a good attitude, and bringing a giant coffee or tea mug that you can fill to the brim several times through the night won’t hurt either :).