GUEST POST: MIKE MACHARGO, CHEO BBQ.
mike machargo and i recently found ourselves in similar boats as we left our rock ‘n’ roll days jobs to take on new challenges and although i’ve only had the pleasure of meeting him in person at our annual sales conferences, i soon learned that he rules the world of social media from his home base in ottawa and i became an avid follower (of @MikeMachargo). besides being funny as all get out, mr. machargo has an uncanny ability to create partnerships and make connections within his circles, from hard rock to the twitter world, and within the non-profit community of ottawa. i knew that he had started a non-profit called CHEO BBQ and hoped he would be willing to share more about how he helps his community and how he spreads the word about that goodwill. lucky for me (and you), he obliged… check it what he has to say about ottawa’s largest backyard bbq – CHEO BBQ:
Looking back year after, I often wonder what happened along the way that keeps me doing this special event time and time again. As I’ve told many people, I do it for the free T-shirt and hot dog! But I want to dig a little deeper, peel back a layer or two. When we started this crazy adventure, none of my friends or I had kids, we just had fun planning a “party”.
As the years went on, we matured slightly, we had different ideas, and a few accidents developed and have now become a part of our plan. But before I can tell you all about what we do – just a quick few words about why we did it.
The event started small; it was originally a birthday BBQ for a friend, and with some good food, tasty beverages and great friends it took an unexpected turn… we decided to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario “CHEO” (by chance that weekend, the local TV station was holding a telethon). That first year we raised $40 and we all felt pretty good about ourselves. I never expected for the theme of this party to catch on like it did. We then had a few years of growth….as the old saying goes, each partygoer would always tell two friends, then they tell two friends, until it became too big for any one backyard to contain it!
After years of planning this event in our backyards, I realized that this event had taken on its own identity. It was no longer just my friend’s birthday party, it was known as the CHEO BBQ… not a bad name. It stuck and we decided that it was time to take it seriously! So after many years of just calling in our donation I decided to contact CHEO in advance to let them know about what we were up to. This was probably the best thing I could have ever done, as it helped give our event the legitimacy it needed to grow and get the proper permits and licenses. Step one in doing things right, get the charity to be on your side… CHECK!
The next few years was all about learning what not to do… for example, you should probably have more than one Porta-Pottie for a group over 500 people, you should probably serve a non-alcoholic beverage like water just in case, having a first aid team on standby is also a good idea, and when renting/borrowing equipment… overnight security is probably a must if you don’t want things to be stolen. The list goes on and on, but I feel the bumps in the road helped us turn into what the event is today!
Of course, don’t get me wrong, we did a lot right too; we recognized that we could run a successful volleyball tournament during the CHEO BBQ and that it is now one of our main sources of revenue, we realized that if we contracted out the actual cooking of food, we were able to avoid ordering stock, equipment, and staffing professionals, and most important of all, we have been true to our roots – we treat all guests, volunteers, organizers, sponsors, and partners with respect and listen for feedback and suggestions. I still think of it as the party I host in my backyard, and that it’s not that big a deal. But every now and then I will have a surreal moment when a person who has had first-hand experience with the Children’s Hospital tells me what they’ve been through. I had the honor of meeting one little girl who battled cancer by age 2. Sadly she never saw her 4th birthday, but it was the words her father told me that haunt my mind every time I consider retiring from the event – “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing!”
So if all I am supposed to do is continue planning a fun event that incorporates activity, family, community, local business, and most importantly… the kids, why would I stop? It is late 2011 and we just wrapped the 19th annual event in June, we were blessed with good weather an almost sold out sports tournament, fantastic volunteers, and in all a community that cares. With all that going for us, it has inspired our team to really crush it and plan an incredible 20th Anniversary event!
In the past 19 years we’ve seen our fair share of fun, growth, and smiles. The very first year we raised $40, for 2011 we raised $50,000.00 – our running total for the past 19 years is approximately $370,000.00, and with 2012, I plan to see us break the $400,000.00 mark! My proud moments have come from inspiring other people to do events, raise money for CHEO or their charity of choice – imitation is the most sincere form of flattery you know! But what else have I learned, other than I throw an awesome party?! I’ve learned that if you conduct yourself with dignity, treat people with respect and do what you say you’re going to do, success is bound to be the end result! And with a little luck, you’ll inspire others along the way and create a community of charitable ambassadors.
I’m always asked right after “why” do I do it, how did I get so many others to follow me, I’d like to think that others do it for the T-shirt too, but everyone has their reasons and we provide an excellent opportunity for people to give back to the community, the hospital that has affected their lives or a great way to spend a fantastic summer afternoon with friends. Thank you to all my family, friends, co-workers and sponsors from over the years without your involvement we could have never have made it happen.
And Hey… It’s for the Kids 🙂
Co-Founder and Director of Awesome
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada