I’m just in awe today after an incredible “Super Saturday” event for the youth of the Appleton, Wisconsin Stake, and would like to point out what amazing things local youth leaders can achieve. This extra-mile Stake effort brought youth together for carefully tailored events to kick off the year of activities for the youth. I can think of hundreds of ways for a big Saturday event to fall flat, but fortunately, they didn’t come to me for my ideas. Our Stake Young Men and Young Women leaders, working closely with their ward and branch counterparts and with a committee of young people, planned a spiritually uplifting, instructive, and fun event that exceeded all expectations.
I only caught a few glimpses of the action because my wife and I were getting food ready in the kitchen, but what I saw and heard was so impressive, and the feedback from the youth was very positive.
The leaders expected 120 youth to show up. Their publicity and planning efforts, coupled with a lot of work from unit leaders, resulted in nearly 150 attending–not bad for a cold winter day. I was also amazed at how many adult leaders and parents came to help out–at least 30 adults. The Stake leaders with family and other helpers spent many hours the day before and morning of the event making physical preparations, including hundreds of 3-D “bricks” made from cleverly assembled paper bags to build the towering walls of Jericho in the cultural hall across the stage and across the floor at the sides of the stage. The youth first heard some inspiring words about how they face walls in their lives that need the help of the Lord to be brought down. The youth then had a blast raising their voices on cue to simulate the noise that the camp of Israel made as they faced the walls of Jericho, and then the walls came tumbling down as adults behind the walls knocked them down and walked through the crumbling walls, representing angels and mortal helpers the Lord can use to help us conquer the overwhelming challenges we may face.
The youth got to put on skits relating to theme of the event and had other activities before they were served dinner. As the dividers in the middle of the cultural hall were pushed open, the youth were pleased to see 20 tables all set up with food ready to eat. I’m so amazed at the planning of the Stake Young Women leaders who came up with a menu, purchased all the food, and gave us instructions on exactly what to do. In the final hour before the meal was to be served, about a dozen additional adults joined us in the kitchen for some of the hectic final preparations, and wonderfully, everything was ready, just perfect, really, exactly on time. Hawaiian haystacks, based on rice with a cream of chicken sauce and lots of toppings to choose from, with salad, rolls, and dessert were all ready, hot and delicious, with just seconds to spare. I know how hard it is to do that, how many things can go wrong, but thanks to extra-mile preparations and plenty of help, the meal came together and created a pleasant “wow” factor for the youth. And by being ready to eat on the tables, 45 minutes were saved compared to having a buffer with long, slow lines. Smart!
More fun events occurred afterward, including some dance training. The event lasted a little over five hours for 150 young people who came, but involved many, many hours from those doing the planning and preparations (including my son, who was on the youth committee). Lots of fellowship, learning, and fun. I’m so grateful for those in our Stake who understand how important our young people are and who make such sacrifices to help them grow. Youth events of all kinds, including Scouting events, demand a lot from those who make them happen.
Thank you, youth leaders everywhere, for what you do your our young people!