Say Thanks Austin, the crowning event capping off each year’s RecognizeGood Legends program, presents the Austin area with a unique opportunity to say “thank you” to a select group of remarkable individuals who contribute their time and talents toward exemplary acts of good. The Class of 2013 Legend award winners , known now and forever as Legends, are truly inspiring as a whole – and the staggering response to this group of individuals and their supporting casts not only set a new record for Say Thanks Austin’s success, but more importantly showed more than ever before how vast an impact one person can make.
Over 62,000 “thank you” votes were cast over the course of the event, pouring in from seven different voting sources including email, text, Facebook, Twitter, paper voting cards, the web, and the Say Thanks Austin mobile app. “Thank you” votes were cast from eighteen different countries, including all but five U.S. states and over 140 different cities in the state of Texas alone. Advertisements promoting Say Thanks Austin, the 2013 Legends and their respective causes appeared in various forms of print, on radio, on the web, and on television. On the word-of-mouth level, countless emails were sent, innumerable phone calls made, and incalculable appeals posted across various social networks by not only the Legends themselves, but by the networks of supporters from their churches, professional organizations and nonprofit affiliates. Professional athletes from both the NFL and the NBA leveraged their considerable influence to support the Legends, both by spreading the word to their gigantic followings and by casting their own votes. Votes were cast by those as young as 4 and as old as 95. The sheer volume of the gratitude generated by this year’s campaign has, as the event’s founders intended, grabbed a massive amount of attention across the city – and as a light shines on the selfless endeavors of both the individual Legends and the wonderful nonprofit organizations they represent, the Circle of Good grows. Lee Leffingwell , mayor of Austin, has remarked many times, “I hope that Austinites will lead the country in being the city that says “thanks” most often to the citizens who do great work in our community.” With over 62,000 total “thank you” votes this year, it would appear that Austin is well on its way to that distinction.
The Legend award itself is designed to recognize a community contributor, or Legend, who embodies the core beliefs of RecognizeGood through his or her extraordinary charitable actions. Each Legend award includes a small ceremony, where the winner is presented with a $1,000 donation in his or her name to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice. The Class of 2013 Legends includes seven individuals and two couples, representing not just Austin itself, but surrounding communities like Round Rock, Georgetown, and Lakeway as well. Award ceremonies are typically held at a fitting, meaningful location of the Legend’s choosing, and the 2013 ceremonies were held at particularly unique venues, including a juvenile justice center, the lobby of a medical clinic, an assisted living facility, and even the middle of a baseball field! And as for the reason these Legends do what they do? Each dedicates themselves to a worthy cause serving the greater good, advocating for the less fortunate and underprivileged, including the homeless, those with disabilities and special needs, the sick and underinsured, military veterans and their families, the elderly, and those in developing countries without the use of their legs.
As each Legend rallied their fans and followers to vote “every day, every way,” they were staggered to realize the impact of their work – and the touching stories of support were astonishing. One Legend wrote, “I am in awe of the energy and time spent helping us to achieve the “thanks” we need!” Another voter wrote in, “My 7 year old came home from school with the biggest smile on her face yesterday, and showed me voting cards filled out by her teacher and the kids on the bus. I love empowering our youth to make a difference so early on!”
The Say Thanks Austin campaign of 2014 accomplished many things. First and foremost, awareness was raised for nine wonderful local nonprofit organizations – a “buzz” was created, and hundreds (if not thousands) of people became aware for the first time of the missions and goals of these organizations. The nonprofits have the opportunity to leverage this “buzz” and tell their story to a new base of potential donors and volunteers. Secondly, the selfless dedication of the individual Legend award winners was recognized in an amazing way. Most importantly, the collective attention of our great city was fixated on the often-overlooked goodness that exists right under our noses – hopefully, as the Circle of Good grows and inspires many more to find ways to get involved and contribute themselves, a community was reminded of the power of saying thanks.