This is an wild confession based upon my place of employment: I don't like attending Silicon Slopes events. I just don't. I have to put on my nicest attire, which consists of a golf polo and a pair of skinny jeans I bought with my co-worker Meg. It's a huge drag and nobody ever gives me compliments because they think I dressed down, not up. Whenever I arrive, I remember I'm not a tech person and immediately return to my office and shut the door.
In an incredible turn of events, I attended the Silicon Slopes Community Awards and loved it. It was easy to love. The four Community Heroes — Mary Crafts, Lori Kun, Stephenie Larsen, Amy Wylie — are ballers, plain and simple. I've spoken with all four and they inspire me to be a better human. Each has identified pressing problems within the community and dedicated large amounts of time and personal resources to solving those problems. There is nothing cooler or more heroic than that.
I'm going to limit what I say about each award winner because we have profiles coming out on each woman for Silicon Slopes Magazine and I don't want to step on my own toes. But I do have a few tidbits I'd like to share:
- Mary Crafts, founder of Culinary Crafts, is one of the most profound interviews I've ever conducted. She's like a prophet — I would follow her to South America and drink Kool-Aid if she asked. Listening to her talk was like reading scripture only with words I understood. Her story is unbelievable (again, more on that in Silicon Slopes Magazine) and her capacity to serve others is extraordinary. In my humble opinion, Mary deserves 5/5 stars and a pair of customized wooden skis.
- Mary quote of the day: “I realized that giving and receiving are the same thing.”
- Lori Kun, head of Five For The Fight, exudes passion. This came out immediately in our first interaction, she spoke to me with kindness, graciousness, shared very personal stories about the ways cancer has touched her life, and stressed her determination to help beat cancer in any way possible. I wrote a story based upon that interview and 5 For The Fight has become the official charity of Silicon Slopes. There is a slight downside: Lori enjoys Indiana Hoosiers football, which is an unfortunate choice we came to grips with after countless hours of meditation and prayer. In my humble opinion, Lori deserves 5/5 stars and a pair of customized wooden skis.
- Lori quote of the day: “Whatever breaks your heart is where your passion lies.”
- Bonus quote about Lori from 5 For The Fight co-founder Mike Maughan: “Optimism, beauty and community. In her search for these characteristics, she has become the embodiment of them all.”
- Stephenie Larsen, founder and CEO of Encircle, is a person I have great admiration for. She created an organization in Provo that seeks to deepen and enrich the conversation among communities of faith and LGBTQ+ people. I cannot imagine the challenges that come with this decision, but Stephenie has done it with sensitivity and grace that is awe-inspiring. She also employs my cousin (a huge plus) and gave me the best advice anyone can give a writer: when spelling her name, just remember to put e's everywhere. In my humble opinion, Stephenie deserves 5/5 stars and a pair of customized wooden skis.
- Stephenie quote of the day: “There is so much more that unites us than divides us.”
- Amy Wylie, Executive Director of Education at One Refugee, believes in action. She became involved with helping the refugee community 20 years ago and made the cause her own. Five years ago, she jumpstarted One Refugee and hasn't looked back, providing a pathway to education and employment for countless refugee youth. In my humble opinion, Amy deserves 5/5 stars and a pair of customized wooden skis.
- Amy quote of the day: “Our students have done something brave and courageous.”
- Alan and Karen Ashton, the founders of Thanksgiving Point, were also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Alan co-founded WordPerfect with Bruce Bastian (who was also in attendance) and after being acquired by Novell in the mid-90's, Alan and Karen wanted to give back. Over the course of a decade they built out a gathering point: Thanksgiving Point, filled with museums, farmland, gardens, and golf. I also work at Thanksgiving Point, making Alan and Karen my surrogate grandparents. In my humble opinion, grandma and grandpa deserve 10/10 stars and a pair of customized wooden skis.
- Alan Ashton quote of the day: “It’s people helping people that has made this such a wonderful place to live.”
- Before we conclude, let's grade the performance of my friend Clint Betts. He was the emcee and wore a pink button-up, an immediate violation that we will dock him points for. He delivered a nice opening speech about opportunity and action, though it was balanced out by a blue sportscoat that left me feeling unsettled. He botched the photos with each award winner, which I will forgive because I once witnessed Clint in a photoshoot. The photographer told him to stand in a natural manner and I've never seen a person more uncomfortable. He kept asking where to put his hands and no one had answers. The only photos that were usable omitted all hand placement, you can't imagine the places and positions each finger was bent into. Frankly, it was a terrifying experience for me and I was just a spectator. Clint does get major points for putting on a Silicon Slopes event that I enjoyed — no small feat. In my humble opinion, Clint deserves 3/5 stars and no pairs of customized wooden skis.