Facing the end of the ‘Oughts – Elisa chimes in

What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?  This question is on the tips of people’s tongues around the RaceTrac Store Support Center.  It’s funny how quickly people get over Christmas.  It just happened, and now everyone’s discussing New Year’s Eve, not how their holiday weekends were, or the time spent with family.  I tell myself that we’re all just Christmas’ed out because holiday tunes have been on the radio since OCTOBER!?   Anyways, back to the question…what ARE you doing for New Year’s? Have you decided to drop a fortune on a big bash, save cash and go to a friend’s house, or throw a party yourself asking friends to BYOB? It is a tough decision. I’ve done the big bash before and really enjoyed it (disclaimer: this is partially because I am always excited to buy and wear a new party dress). I’ve also tried the opposite of a party and escaped to the mountains for the weekend to completely unwind (which was a big hit). Last year, a few good friends of mine hosted shindigs, so I got to party-hop.

But this year I have been a little scroogey. I’m enjoying the single life (I just started singing, “All the single ladies,” join me, won’t you?), so the mountains are a no-go. No one I know is hosting a party (and don’t think I haven’t tried bribing someone,) and I am not super pumped about dropping big bucks to stand in a crowded room with a bunch of strangers. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, rely on my friends to make good decisions for me….of course! I have a friend who’s been living in Europe for a few years, and she always comes home for the holidays. This friend, along with a bunch of other girls from college found the anti- party and it looks like I am all-in. This little anti-party boasted the lowest ticket price in town which piqued my interest (sigh, that was only for the first 500 people, then the price went up $20). So, I’ve now purchased my ticket (at the higher price…hello!  I am a huge procrastinator) and am attempting to mentally prepare for the big event.

My first attempt to mentally prepare will be in the form of a shopping excursion (which always gets me in the mood for a party!) My second attempt will be probably be another shopping trip to make sure I have enough dress options to choose from. I haven’t quite figured out what else will get me excited about this event… so I end up back where I started, in full-on Scrooge mode. I am sure it will be fun (because I will be surrounded by my wonderful friends!) I just need to ignore the office NYE babble and focus on the memories of Christmas. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way!

Guest Entry: A Camp Sunshine Camper Speaks

Today’s guest blog comes from Ron Williams, a former camper and current counselor and director at Camp Sunshine.

Every kid should get the opportunity to go to summer camp at some point in their childhood.  I do not wish for any child to be in the position to attend Camp Sunshine, but I am truly grateful that I was.  You see, to “get in” to Camp Sunshine, one has to satisfy two specific criteria- first you have to be a kid, which is easy enough, but secondly, you must have been diagnosed with cancer.  At camp, there are little kids with leukemia, teens with tumors, and a bit of everything in between…some are on active treatment, some are survivors, and some have stopped their therapy.  But whatever brought them there, Camp Sunshine holds a special place in the hearts of its campers…and this I know from experience.

I was a 14 year old soccer standout when a nagging pain in my left shin turned out to be osteogenic sarcoma- bone cancer.  I spent my first week at camp shortly after the amputation of my leg below the knee and in the middle of my chemo.  I was pretty down in the dumps, but camp lifted my spirits and showed me that life could go on, better than usual even.  I learned how to water ski on one leg (a real slalom), a skill that ended up earning me a college scholarship for skiing at Georgia College.  After college, when skiing competitions were less available, I switched over to cycling, and after a few years of hard training, earned a spot on the US Paralympic Cycling Team in 2000, 2004, and 2008, bringing home a bronze and a silver medal from the games in Athens.

As proud as I am of these achievements, I am more proud of my continued involvement with Camp Sunshine, starting with four years as a camper, and now as a member of the board of directors and as a counselor each summer.  I attribute all of the good things in my life, directly or indirectly, to camp…it was there I learned about setbacks, survival, and success.  Camp Sunshine made me who I am, and I am forever grateful.  Without the encouragement of the counselors, directors, and other campers at Camp Sunshine, my life would have turned out very differently.

Guest Entry: A Camp Sunshine Counselor Speaks

Today’s guest entry comes from Emily, a former camper and current counselor at Camp Sunshine.  RaceTrac is donating 100% of its coffee proceeds sold between Monday, Dec 21st and Wednesday, Dec 23rd in its Georgia Stores to this organization, dedicated to providing everyday experiences to children with cancer and their families.  You can learn more about Camp Sunshine at www.mycampsunshine.com.

Each morning during Camp Sunshine summer camp, you see counselors carrying travel mugs full of steaming coffee off to early morning fishing, or to the pool to take pictures of their campers sliding down the big slide. In the dining hall, you usually see a line of counselors with two mugs in hand, one for themselves and one for their co-counselor.  When I was a camper, I thought that they were drinking coffee because that is what my dad did, so of course all old people just did it. However, when I became a counselor myself, I realized that adrenaline alone might sustain you through a jam-packed day, but caffeine will certainly help.

You might think that a camp for children with cancer is calm, serene, and quiet. You would be correct. From about 11 p.m. until about 6 a.m. it is calm and quiet. However, the other seventeen hours of the day are jam-packed full of squeals, giggles, drumming, chanting, cheering, swimming, boating, hammering, dancing, karate yells, kickball, unsanctioned wheelchair races, music, and too many other activities to list. The counselors need that coffee to keep up with their camper who just left the infirmary to get their chemo, because that child simply must get to goldpanning on the other side of camp. The counselor drinks her coffee because not only will her child with a prosthetic leg climb to the top of the climbing tower, she just might challenge her counselor to a race to the top. The counselor needs the coffee because her campers will want to dance with her after every meal to Justin and his guitar.

The counselor needs the coffee to push a child confined to a wheelchair to each activity that camp offers. There is an unspoken understanding that the child has to experience all that camp has to offer in this one week because it will take a miracle to see her again next year. It takes a counselor full of coffee and caffeine to be able to get up at night to help this child to the bathroom because the medications make her unable to help herself. The counselor needs coffee to give her the emotional strength to say goodbye to that child at the end of the week. The counselor needs to drink her coffee a few months later and reflect on the great week that child had, and to be grateful for the time she had to get to know such an incredible person.

The counselor drinks her coffee so that he can stay up and tell funny jokes with his campers at night. They even might “sneak out” and go play dodgeball in the gym. The counselor needs his coffee to help distract a seven year-old from his homesickness and introduce him to friends who will one day be the groomsmen in his wedding. Counselors need coffee so that we can show these children who are fighting for their lives that Camp Sunshine makes their lives worth living. We pray that one day soon they will be drinking coffee and chasing their own campers throughout the camp.

As you grab a cup of coffee at RaceTrac this week, think of the campers who you are helping when you do so. Maybe grab a cup to take to a coworker, friend, or family member who you see as your “co-counselor” in life. When we drink our coffee at Camp Sunshine, we know that we are on the brink of changing lives. When you drink your coffee at RaceTrac, know that your cup has just done the same.

The SEC Championship Recap: A Gator Fan Speaks or, “You Can’t Win Them All”

I have been a Gator since birth and UF was the only permissible option I had for college, so needless to say, this weekend was a difficult one for me.

After riding on MARTA like sardines in a can, we stepped out to bear the arctic Atlanta Saturday.  Following all of the other unprepared-for-winter, non-jort-wearing Floridians into the appropriately named Orange Lot, I could feel the excitement, optimism, and frost bite in the air. Once we settled at our tailgate and prepared for the long day ahead, we caught up with old friends and haggled with local artists selling shirtless Tim Tebow sketches.

As game time quickly approached, the group of us who wisely chose not to take out a second mortgage to buy tickets made our way through the sea of houndstooth to the CNN center, landing in front of three giant flat screens for what promised to be one of the most exciting games in a long time.  I wish I could say the next four hours were a blur, but unfortunately, I remember every gut wrenching minute. Between screaming for Tebow to get rid of the ball and ever-so-kindly teaching the “Alabama fan” behind me how to pronounce their quarterback’s name, there was no question I would be hoarse at work on Monday morning.  Yet my voice and Tebow’s pride weren’t the only thing that suffered that day.  I tried to call my mom to vent about the game, but rest in peace, Mom’s little flip phone, we hardly knew ye.  A 75-mph meeting with the wall took you from us too soon.

Now I guess I understand the saying “you can’t win them all.” I have to remind my spoiled self that I can’t be too disappointed this year because I was fortunate enough to witness four national championships during my college career. And hey, Bourbon Street on New Year’s Eve doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all. As I avoid all of the scrutiny and bad mouthing at work this week, I’m going to get to the drawing board to create a clothing pattern that we Gators can claim as our own. I might even order one of those vials of Tebow’s tears off eBay (I hear that stuff can cure the incurable).

It still is and always will be great to be a Florida Gator!

SEC Championship Recap: Roll Tide!

My first thought when I woke up: Man I hope Tebow cries tonight!

I didn’t realize that this game was set to be played in the arctic.  Facing 30 degree temperatures (with snow!) and 15 mph winds, all I could think about was keeping warm when our tailgate started.  After pitching our tent about four times (thanks to the aforementioned wind), we were finally able to settle in.  Over the far-off roar of Game Day celebrations starting around 10am, we began drinking our breakfast, mingling with jean-short-wearers and houndstooth-sporters alike next to the CNN center.   This continued for a few hours, until Bama was picked to win.

It was at that time that the sun came out, and I knew that we were headed for victory.  The burgers and beverages continued until about 3, and then fans started flowing into the game like lemmings.  Whether you were rooting for the right team or the other team, there was a distinct buzz in the air.  Whether it was the static electricity from Florida Fans’ Jorts swishing as they walked, or raw talent from Tuscaloosa filling the dome, I couldn’t tell you.  But, everyone was so excited to see what promised to be one of the greatest games in recent history.

Every seat in the house quickly filled up with a block of blue and orange taking over half the stadium, and the other (better) half wrapped in a sea of crimson.   Everyone was jumping, yelling, and there was enough electricity from the football faithful that the power in the dome could have gone out for hours but the lights would’ve stayed on.   After kickoff, the contest was less about who could score the most points, but who could be loudest when the opposing team had the ball.  Judging from my inability to speak today, I’d say we won that contest just as handily as we did the game.

Halfway through the quarter, when things were looking up, I didn’t want to make a move.  Glued to my seat, I refused to be the one who jinxed the win by celebrating prematurely.  But that celebration came after the final seconds ticked off the clock and they popped Tebow’s weepy eyes up on the big screen when the stadium, including me, erupted in a roar.  We didn’t let him write that final chapter of his legacy, and it felt good.

My productivity this week has been completely shot as I look for tickets to Pasadena, but I can’t wait to get out there.  I’ve been quietly chanting RammaJamma at my desk and I’m pretty sure the team who sits around me is about to kick me out of the office.  Victory tastes so sweet – first some gator filet, now on to some Grade-A Longhorn steak.

My last thought before I passed out:  I hope ole Timmy is still crying…. WAHAHAHA

We’re live!

So, we’re going to try this whole blogging thing…and unlike some companies, our blog isn’t going to be about pushing products.  It’s going to be all about really, really  important things. – important things like sports, cooking, saving money, television…

It’s also going to be our opportunity to talk a little bit about what we do on a daily basis.  Employees from all over our Store Support Center will contribute content, talk about what exactly keeps them busy, and occasionally root for their favorite team. 

It’s going to be a crazy ride, but we’re hoping you’ll join us for it.  Talk to you soon!