WOW, what a weekend. I woke up early Friday morning and headed to the airport with my head filled with a lot of excitement and appreciation. Not all for where I was going and who I was going to meet, but reminiscing and reflecting what we have done over the past 15 or so months.
It’s about our disabled friends, civilians and veterans alike. For some of our friends who are bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or for some that have disabilities that cannot be seen by looking at them, we are very proud to know and to have a part in their lives. For some stuck in the house, or confined to a hospital bed, looking out of the same window day after day can be a challenge.
What we are able to do is to open a window to the world for them, to give them what we thought was a break from their day. What we didn’t realize at that time is that the effects of opening that window was more significant that we originally realized. It’s real! It’s a memory! It’s a few moments in time! It’s an interactive Virtual Photo Walk.
With the help of our volunteer photographers from around the world and the Google+ platform, we are able to open that window and show our veterans their World War II Memorial in Washington DC.
We can show them the changing of the guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We can take them aboard and on deck in front of the 9 inch guns on the USS Alabama,
We can take them to see The Pearl Harbor Memorial.
We can even take them back to the beaches of Normandy where they landed over 70 years ago.
Some of our veterans have told us that they have not stopped thinking about that beach, even after all that time, They thanked us for bringing them back to a beautiful place with turquoise water that once was once such a nightmare for each of them with the waters running red onto the beaches. As emotional as visiting this place is to revisit, it was a bittersweet closure for at least some of our friends.
We were able to bring our friends on a Hero Tour of the 911 Memorial in New York City.
We Will Never Forget.
Not all of our virtual photo walks are as emotional as the stories mentioned above. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun, for instance swimming with turtles in Hawaii.
We also have enjoyed visiting elephants in Africa.
We’ve visited a national park sunset with our photographers as they set up for an amazing shot.
We have fulfilled dreams to visit places previously out of their reach, like iconic landmarks in Rome. Monica told me after this particular photo walk that this was on her bucket list of places to visit. This was unfortunately impossible otherwise due to her disabilities. It could be life-threatening for her for her to fly. Monica also asked me if I knew what we just did? You took me to Rome she said.
Virtual Photo Walks (VPW) and Veterans United (VU) have been able to do this all online in a “Google+ Hangout” (a live interactive video chat room). Many of us have never meet in real life, they all agree that this interactive video chat is more real than they could have imagined. Real relationships are made, emotional bonds are created and real friendships are nurtured, right here on Google + with VPW and VU.
This brings me to this past weekend in October 2013. I am very proud to say that the founders, team members and volunteers of Virtual Photo Walks and Veterans United were nominated for an EMMY Award in the category for Community Service.
Thank you to our friend Brenda for transporting and showing us around St. Louis on our first day in town. It was great to meet you in real life.
The weekend started on Friday night with a VIP cocktail party at Robust Wine Bar where John and I meet a few of the other Emmy nominees and people involved with the production.
Hello to this years Emmy Host, Margaret Judson of HBO’s hit show “NEWSROOM”. We had a great time together.
I also had the opportunity to meet Angie Weidinger Mid-America Emmy’s, President, Sponsorship Committee Chair/Executive Finance Committee among many others.
On Saturday John and I meet Sarah Hill in real life.
Here’s a video clip when Sarah and I meet in real life for the first time.
Sarah even taught me Google Glass. I could get use to that!
Thank you Sarah.
We all met in St. Louis in real life for the first time to share not only a dinner together but the experience of recognition for all of this good work.
We are all very proud to give back especially to our veterans in this small way for what they have given to us in a very large way. For making their individual sacrifices, but also by their families.
It would have been nice to win, but we didn’t this time and that’s okay. We will still do what we do for all the right reasons.
Thank you St. Louis and the EMMY Awards. We had a great time.
If you know of a disable person that you think would benefit from this experience or if you know a veteran or are a veteran yourself or maybe you are a photographer that would like to volunteer some time and bandwidth to take us someplace interesting in the world. Please connect with us by visiting at http://virtualphotowalks.org . Thank you for reading and watching some of our adventures on demand. The world is truly becoming a smaller place.
Photos and video by:
Special Thank you
To everyone that ever helped us open the window to the world for our friends and veterans.
To our friends and Veterans for allowing us to be part of their lives.