Although Hurricane Joaquin threatened to dampen the spirits of staff and participants on the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia 3-Day, nothing could keep this group down! Today you’ll get a unique perspective from Jennifer Hanskat who played the role of the Overnight Support/Vehicle Assistant. In this role, Jennifer monitored the weather, campsite and safety of the participants (including Support Services) while most of the staff and crew sleeps.
Wednesday September 30th, (Travel Day) – This is my travel day and I get an early start as my flight is scheduled to leave O’Hare at 7:30 a.m. I wouldn’t normally assume that Wednesday mornings are a big travel day, but I am glad that I arrived early and had plenty of time because the security and Starbucks lines were crazy long. The good news was that I got through security and got my skinny vanilla latte in time to board my flight. The bad news was that once everyone was on board, we had a 45 minute delay due to weather in Philadelphia.
Once I arrived in Philadelphia, I grabbed my bag and took the shuttle bus over to Budget Rent-a-Car, where after yet another delay, I took off in a Town & Country minivan. While waiting for the van at Budget, I received a text from a member of our route team asking if I would please drive over to the Opening Ceremony location (load-in) so my vehicle could be checked in and stocked up for the weekend. It took about 45 minutes to drive over and I timed it perfectly to be able to join the route team for lunch at the mall.
Once my van was checked in and loaded, I was able to share a ride with a member of the route team, Eileen, to the staff hotel in downtown Philadelphia. It was later in the afternoon so we had a bit of traffic to deal with and the ride took us about an hour. We quickly checked in and then met up with a couple of other staff members for a short visit to Reading Terminal Market. After this visit we met up with even more staff for a great dinner and a lot of laughs at Olde McGillians. The Pope was our special guest.
Thursday October 1st (All Crew Kick-Off) – My morning began by meeting up with Melissa, the Vehicle Coordinator, at 7 a.m. We drove to Willow Grove Park Mall where all of the event vehicles were parked. It was a miscellaneous sort of day as I helped Melissa and other staff with a variety of tasks: checking in vehicles, moving cars, vans and trucks, crew check in, and crew training. I also met with the Bus Liaison and Sweep crew captains to discuss the Friday morning bus plan.
The ride back to the hotel with Kim and Gayla had an interesting twist. We stopped at Target and when we tried to exit the parking lot we learned we could only turn right. We got a bit turned around and ended up taking a beautifully scenic route back to the hotel and discovered a wonderful dinner spot along the way, In Riva. If you are local to Philadelphia, it is on Kelly Drive and I highly recommend it.
It was recommended that I stay up as late as possible on Thursday night. I would be helping with busses at Opening in the morning, very early, and then I would be returning to the hotel to sleep during the day. I watched TV and played games on my Kindle and fought sleep until about midnight. My alarm was set for 3 a.m. as I needed to be in the hotel lobby, ready to leave by 3:30 a.m. You really learn how to get ready fast on event to maximize your sleeping time.
Friday October 2nd (Day One) – 3:30 a.m. and I am in the hotel lobby ready to go. I am carpooling with several others who are all drinking coffee which I am looking at longingly but refrain since I need to be able to sleep in just a few hours. We are all dressed in our warmest clothes, rain jackets and rain pants. I even brought along my water-proof shoes, thankfully. When we arrive at the Opening Ceremony it is cold, windy and raining but despite the weather, spirits are high. I am working with the Route Safety crew in the morning with participant drop off, which goes very smoothly. I am able to watch the Opening Ceremony and visit with walkers, crew and my fellow staff before heading back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
Friday Afternoon (Day One, Part Two) – I wake with my alarm at 4 p.m., quite surprised at how well I slept and how refreshed I feel. I shower quickly and meet up with a friend for dinner at Reading Terminal Market before reporting to the Command Center at 6 p.m.
I meet up with Todd, the Campsite Coordinator, and do a site drive through (we are in a golf cart), making sure I know where everything is inside the Convention Center (our indoors campsite for the next two days) and the timing of certain elements, such as when the lights are to be turned off and what time the catering team leaves.
I also have instructions from those in Command to learn about any special circumstances and any participants who are being treated at local hospitals who may need a ride back to camp later. I also take responsibility for my “babies,” the four Command phones and one Support Services phone. Add my own personal phone to this mix and I have six babies to care for throughout the night and they must go everywhere with me!
After 9 p.m. it gets quiet pretty fast. I visit the Remembrance Tent to turn down the music that plays once those visiting the tent have left. The lights in the tent section go off just after 9 p.m. and the lights in the section where Command is go off around 9:30 p.m. It is dark but there are security lights so I am still able to see to walk around.
Around 10:30 p.m. I take a short walk around and help coordinate a truck delivery that will empty the used water in the shower trucks. I also chat with the various security guards.
Around 12:30 a.m. I receive a call from a participant who was at a local hospital that she has been released and would like to be picked up. We have a Support Services crew member who is also on the Overnight shift and I give her a call to come over to Command. I give her the first name of the participant, the participant’s cell number and the address to the hospital. I also ask her to call me when she is on her way back so that I can arrange for a security escort from the parking lot. She is gone about an hour and after that it was a pretty low key night.
There are four staff members who sleep in Command and part of my duties as Overnight Support is to make sure that Command is cleaned during the night. Obviously, I took care of the vacuuming early, before the “boys” went to bed. It is about 2 a.m. when I tackle wiping down counters, emptying the trash and basic organizing and clean up. It is about this time that I was feeling sleepy and the cleaning helped get me past this hurdle.
Saturday October 3rd (Day Two) — It is about 4 a.m. when I start to see and hear movement. Participants have been up and down throughout the night visiting the restrooms but for the most part, they are quiet. The catering team begins to arrive and prepare breakfast just after 4 a.m. and by 5 a.m. the lights are on and walkers and crew are starting to come over for breakfast.
I receive an early morning call that the PJs (toilets) have not been delivered to pit stop 1. Calls are made and this is remedied as quickly as possible with only a slight delay to the opening of the route for Day 2.
By 6 a.m. I am officially relieved of my “babies” and I am off to the hotel to sleep. I set my alarm for 3 p.m. as I want to have a little more time to check in with my family before reporting back to Command for the night.
Saturday Afternoon (Day Two, Part Two) — Even though the alarm went off at 3 p.m., I don’t actually get out of bed until 3:30, this should come as no surprise to those who know me well. I am not a jump out of bed at the sound of the alarm person. I do feel very well rested and after a quick shower I call my family to check in. I head over to the Convention Center at 5 p.m. to enjoy dinner at camp because who can resist the Saturday night mac & cheese? I sit with a few participants I know from Michigan; it is great to be able to connect with walkers and crew since I sleep while they are on the route.
I report to Command again at 6 p.m. and take possession of my babies. I notice tonight that Command has a lot going on, a lot of people around. Once I have my babies, I take a little walk around so there is one less person in Command. Once the camp show begins, Command seems to clear out a bit and I spend some time replacing batteries for crew members, cleaning up the kitchen area and getting briefed on follow-up for the night.
Saturday night is busy in camp as many elements need to be packed up once camp shuts down for the night at 9 p.m. There is more activity and people around later than Friday night. By 11 p.m. most everyone has finished, cleared out and gone to bed. The participants in the tent area have been quiet for at least 1.5 hours already. Only the medical team seems to be up, whispering and giggling together and winding down after a long day.
Earlier in the evening we had a participant that needed to go to a local hospital and our Overnight Support Services crew member drove and stayed with her until she was released. Around midnight, she called to let me know that she had returned and I again arranged for a security escort from the parking lot. When she gets into the building she checks in with me and asks if the shower trucks are still open. They are but since they are outside and I am not comfortable letting her go alone, I take my babies and escort her to the shower trucks and wait outside while she showers. I had to giggle a little because she comes back out in pink fuzzy footie and hoodie pajamas. Hey, she was warm and comfortable!
Afterwards, it is a really quiet night. For some reason, tonight seems longer and I find myself walking around a bit more and watching the activity out the windows on the streets of Philadelphia. I also find myself enjoying a little reheated mac & cheese about 3 a.m. I will give a little shout out to our amazing catering team. They leave several meals, wrapped up and ready for reheating, when they leave for the night in case we have participants who returned to camp late and may be hungry. This is very thoughtful of them, especially for a participant who may have been at a local hospital.
Both nights in Command I also used my time to catch up on my day to day work. I am sure a few of my Michigan participants wondered why in the world I was responding to their email in the middle of the night.
Sunday October 3rd (Day Three)– I see movement again about 4 a.m. but today there are a lot more people up and about than the previous day. Dave, from the Support Services staff, is the first to arrive and shortly after several other members of the staff arrive and we begin securing everything in Command as it is ready to move out and head to The Navy Yard. It is kind of amazing to see the truck pull in, connect to the Command Center and then pull out of the large loading dock doors. I return to my hotel room for a few hours of sleep about 5:30 a.m.
My alarm is set for 10:30 a.m. as check out at the hotel is 11 a.m. and I need to report to the load-out lot to help Melissa with vehicle returns by 1 p.m. I have plenty of time to pick up Philly cheesesteak lunches for us before getting down to the business of vehicle returns.
Things are steady over the at vehicle lot. As crew members and staff finish up the weekend, they come to the load-out lot to check in their vehicles and unload any supplies they have into our supply truck. To officially check in a vehicle, we must remove any 3-Day magnets, take back the GPS and accident kits, verify the vehicle is completely fueled and check our key board to see if there is a duplicate key that needs to be returned with the car. Once all of this is done and the vehicle has been unloaded, they are parked together at the far end of the lot.
Later in the afternoon we have a small group of volunteers show up to help with vehicle returns. After the Closing Ceremony we also have two vans full of participants who are helping return vehicles to the airport. This works out well for them as they do not have to pay for a ride to the airport and it helps out the 3-Day so that the staff does not have to make multiple vehicle returns trips to the airport at the end of a long day.
At about 5:30 p.m., we are wrapping up and I am headed to the airport for my flight back home. For the most part the trip home was uneventful and I received a text from my 17 year old son before my flight took off that he was coming to the airport to pick me up. I am pretty sure that I had the cutest taxi driver ever, but I might be a little biased.