Last night, I made it down to the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute (GDMLI) Kick-off Event, which announced the project they’ve taken on with Amanda The Panda. While I’ve been familiar with a great crew involved in this year’s GDMLI class, it was more of a learning experience for their selected charity.
The room at Jasper Winery was packed as Mike Banasiak lead off with the intentions of this year’s project: “This year’s class will help renovate Amanda the Panda’s new location at 1821 Grand Avenue in West Des Moines. The former hospice will double Amanda the Panda’s current space to allow for program expansion.”
The charity works with Iowa families who need the immediate mentoring and in-depth counseling following the death of one of their members. A first-hand testimonial was provided last night in one of the most unique speeches I’ll ever attend. One mother stepped up to the mic holding her 1 year old son and told the story of losing her husband to a heart attack 8 months ago. The combination of her explaining to the crowd her tragic day last May as her toddler ripped away the mic for his comedic outbursts provided a rare mix of sadness and laughter throughout the room.
Her story of finding relief and letting go of anger while connecting with others through Amanda the Panda outlined the need of this program. Just the ability alone to get through this past Christmas for her and the families who were in her shoes helped further drive home the program’s goals. For all the other children, teens and parents out there who have lost or who are going to lose loved ones, it’s a project many of us can value knowing there will be new resources in place.
The GDMLI class has an aggressive timeline of March 1st for the new grief center and are collecting donations here. The renovations of the building itself are currently underway.