Agent Katie Olenjiczak with The Redbud Group – Keller Williams South Park Has Found a Cause Close to Her Heart in “The Sandbox“. In this months Unconventional Agent Article, learn about this amazing charity and the woman who holds it dear to her heart!
It didn’t take Katie Olejniczak long at all to appreciate the impact The Sandbox could have on countless families. One event, and then one meeting, to be exact. Katie, part of The Redbud Group with Keller Williams Southpark, attended a Sandbox event for a family who thought their own vehicle was going in to be fixed. “They got a new van, with a lift, for a wheelchair,” Katie says. “I realized in two seconds what The Sandbox was all about. The family was blown away.”
It’s been a beautiful match ever since. Katie and husband Dave stepped in to help with Sandbox’s prom and other events. They became members of CARRE (Caring About Real Relationships Empathetically) and have served with The Sandbox for three years.
Mara Campolungo, The Sandbox’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, saw magnetic and contagious energy in Katie the first time they met – to the point she asked, ‘Is she for real?’ “Katie has brought life and excitement to The Sandbox, and her zest to help us accomplish whatever is needed or at hand is palpable,” Mara says. “We love Katie for her beautiful personality, her creativity, and her willingness to go the extra mile for our families.”
The Sandbox does things in big ways. Founded in 2010, Sandbox provides whatever families need when their kids are battling life-altering illness. That could be ANYTHING – from a warm embrace to a flight on a private jet to a specific hospital. “It’s as simple as a hug, or meeting a mom at the hospital who hasn’t been able to take a shower in days because she’s been by her son’s bed,” Katie says. “We do things in big ways. If someone needs a haircut, we’re bringing the salon to them, and they’re getting everything.”
After serving behind the scenes for An Evening of Believing – The Sandbox’s signature event – Katie finally got to see the festivities up close. “It’s bigger than how I can even explain it,” Katie says. “And you don’t know until you see it. That’s the best way to explain it. I love it.”
Families are treated to the ultimate prom experience. They don’t pay a dime, but they get to stay in hotels and are dressed up and made up for the big night. They’re driven – by limo! – to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a lap around the track. Families arrive at prom to a red-carpet reception, and local celebrities Jacinda Jacobs and Fly Ty MC the event. “It’s all the good feels,” Katie says. “Forget all the bad stuff you’ve experienced in however many years, or even just yesterday. Prom just lets you forget about it.”
There’s a poignant part of the evening, too. The hero balloon release at the end of the event honors children who’ve passed and others they want to honor.
Katie and Dave, who share a birthday, have never been big on gifts for their shared special day. So, they made their birthday event into a benefit for The Sandbox and raised $700 from their first one, setting higher goals for each year.
“It’s cool to rally our resources and get what we need,” Katie says. That could be volunteers ready to step in and provide meals for a family for as long as they need them. Or, a construction company that vows to build access ramps on houses whenever The Sandbox needs them – no charge, no questions asked.
Kids cannot be aged out of the program, and often, families return to volunteer to help others. If a family loses a loved one, The Sandbox stays connected to offer whatever support they can. “We’re in a cool environment where we can jump on things when needed,” Katie says. “We refuse to tell families no. Things are sometimes hard, but we can do it.”
The Sandbox holds meetings for volunteers and prospective helpers, known as Go-Getters. Ideas are born, hashed out and made reality from these get-togethers. Please see contact information below if you would like to get involved!
If you would like to get in touch with Katie to see how you can get involved, please reach out to her via phone 980.207.9428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about The Sandbox, visit GotSandbox.org.