Day’s Inn. Lacey Rd. Hustling for ARK.

Ayesha: How do you feel about residing at Day’s Inn for the night in Ithaca?!?

Lily: WHAT?!? !@#$%^&...

Ayesha: Ok, I got the answer.

My childhood friend, Ayesha asked if I would like to help generate funds and spread the good word about ARK, at a conference held at Cornell University by the Cornell Filipino Association (CFA) and the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue (FIND) on Nov 4th and 5th. I jumped in head first, for a great cause. How hard could it be?

Ayesha, Melissa, and I started our journey of 220 miles from New York City to Ithaca, NY Friday afternoon. We were armed with copious amount of water and rations for this all-girls road trip and endless laughter along the way. Good times!!!

It would take the average person 4-5 hours to reach our destination but not us because we are rock stars and Ayesha had numerous requests for pit stops to the little girl’s room and refused to program the GPS. While all along, Melissa quietly cut coupons to distribute to the students attending the conference for the weekend. Due to Ayesha and Melissa’s diligence and tenacious attitude, they were able to convince a couple of fine establishments located around Cornell to contribute a portion of their profit to ARK when conference attendees patronize their business and or surrender an ARK coupon. (Whomp-Whomp! Good job, Sistas!)

Ayesha appointed me the driver and she was supposed to be the navigator of our adventurous trip. (Starsky and Hutch, we were not…) Melissa had a smile throughout the ride (although it did not hide the slight fear in her eyes); and an orchestral seat to witness exceptional mockery that consists of grunts, shaking of the fists, and snapping fingers.

Lily: What street do I turn again?!?

Ayesha: [Looks at the ipad and points her index finger towards the windshield.]

Lily: And what does that mean?!?

Ayesha: Go straight; at the next traffic light, bang a right, then left at the stop sign. We will be back on route again.

Lily: Really?!? And I’m supposed to get all that by you pointing your index finger?!?

Melissa: Hey guys, it’s for the kids!!! We are doing this for the kids!!!

For some reason, it seems like there are little to no streetlights on the roads going to Ithaca, NY making it challenging to navigate. There were a few wrong turns. There was one instance when we cut through country roads to get back on track. Ayesha advised while snapping her fingers to make a right on Lacey Rd. Melissa and I retorted, “What?” in the calmest way possible. We were just bantering about spirits and paranormal activities. Lacey Rd displays the perfect setting and had all the elements of what Steven Spielberg would want in a 3D horror movie. We were the only vehicle on this long, windy, unpaved gravel road through a state park. As we drove further into the road, the tree branches begun to hang lower, with the only light coming solely from our vehicle. We were a bit worried. We were petrified and had morbid thoughts of the car breaking down and witnessing apparitions of spirits.

Ayesha: Lily, you handle the living and I’ll handle the dead!!!

I was tapping on the door lock button continuously while Ayesha was yelling, “go, go, go!!!” I had to slow down due to the uneven road filled with debris and gravel. Melissa could not help but to point out how the road is getting narrower and narrower as we drove into the darkness. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, we drove out of Lacey Rd safely while filling the car with our laughter.

Finally, we reached our destination after 6+ hours of driving. First order of business was to race to the printing shop for our posters and fliers. We then met with the FIND organizers at Cornell; grabbed a quick bite at Collegetown Bagels and a quick drink at Rulloff’s and Level B, ARK’s restaurant partners for the weekend; and finally drove to the Hilton hotel for some well-deserved rest.

The time now is 2am and I stay in the car with Melissa as Ayesha checks us in at the Hilton.

Lily: You know what, Melissa? If it weren’t for me, we would be staying at the Holiday Inn tonight. What was Ayesha thinking?!?

Melissa: Good job, Lily!

(High-fives all around the car.)

Ayesha (on her way back to our car from the Hilton’s reception desk): We have a slight problem, the hotel overbooked and gave our room away, but the good news is they got us a room at the Holiday Inn Express.

Lily: What else are they giving us for pain and suffering?!?

Ayesha: All the hotels are booked solid due to conferences and Ithaca College’s Parent Weekend. We are lucky to have a room for the night and… it’s comp.

Lily: (Immediately starts to pop and lock.)

After 3 hours of slumber, we arrived at the FIND conference early Saturday morning to set up bright and early; ARK was able to secure many attractive items for our raffle that weekend including a fashionable tote bag from Dalaga NYC, dinner-for two gift certificates from Café Pacific and Stella’s, all-nighter gift sets from Starbucks, a feel-good gift basket from Wegman’s, and the latest iTouch in white. Right away, we blitz our table with ARK posters and fliers. Ayesha accosted every individual insight to dig deep in their designer jeans to donate some cheddar to ARK throughout the day without missing a beat. Melissa was working the floor speaking in English and Tagalog selling raffle tickets like a girl scout trying to earn points for a daisy badge.

The students never heard of ARK and the cause behind it, when they arrived that morning. However, rest assured when the conference was over, each and every student understood the enormity of this movement.

Indeed, it was nice when we convinced the students to contribute, but it was more imperative for us to spread the word about ARK and the basis of this foundation at the event. The conference provided us a window of opportunity to share, inform and awaken the senses of young Filipino-Americans. While we roamed the beautiful campus of Cornell University, I thought about the kids in the Philippines that are deprived of a basic education and other fundamentals in life. Attaining a higher education would be a dream for the village kids of Bungsuan, Salcedo, Sibariwan, Taslan in Dumarao Capiz. What can we do to help make that dream manifest for these kids?

As the day came to an end, we were depleted, parched, hungry... Our feet were throbbing, voices were gone, and we said the word “ARK” a fujillion times, but in the end, it was all worth it. From the raffle alone, we were able to generate approximately $920.

I realized how much effort and hard work it took to fundraise for a great cause. The experience was indeed humbling. I was inspired by working alongside Ayesha and Melissa and by their unwavering dedication to introduce ARK to the college students. The majority of the students contributed what they could without hesitation. After a dialogue with Ayesha or Melissa, these young college students were eager to play a role in this crusade and bring ARK back with them to their own campus to spread the word. Some even requested Ayesha to visit their campuses and speak to their student body. A good handful of students from ARK partner clubs in Fairleigh Dickinson (Barkada), Fordham (FUPAC), and Seton Hall (FLASH) even volunteered to help sell ARK raffle tickets to ensure that everyone in the conference contributes. It was truly uplifting.

It didn’t matter that I am not Filipino. It didn’t matter if I spoke Tagalog or not. I was proud to play a minor role this weekend to help kids in the Philippines that are less fortunate than us. No child should be deprived of an education! No child should be deprived of a nourishing meal! No child should be robbed of his/her aspirations and goals!

What this experience has given me is a thousand times more than what I donated in dollars to ARK and for that, I am thankful to ARK, Ayesha, and Melissa.

As we drove back to New York City that evening, we were so weary that we decided to park at the parking lot of a Day’s Inn Motel to rest our eyes “for a few minutes.”

Lily: Hey, Ayeh you mentioned that you’re going to fundraise at another conference in the Midwest this Spring. I’m game! Do I hear another road trip?!?

Ayesha: WHAT?!? !@#$%^&...

Lily: Ok, I got the answer.

Melissa: For the kids! (Whispering half asleep…)

We were back home in New York City Sunday morning at 6am.