Facebook likes do not always lead to money, but for 25 nonprofit winners of a social media contest, they led to a share of $125,000. On April 7th, Wind Creek Casinos in Montgomery, Wetumpka and Atmore cohosted events to celebrate winners of the $125k Giveaway contest. Wind Creek Hospitality (WCH) announced the contest in February and invited nonprofits to participate by submitting a short video to describe their organizations and outreach efforts. The contest had 125 entries and over 37,000 votes.
Sixteen nonprofit winners were invited to a celebration event at WCA. For one organization in particular, a surprise was in store. When Melissa Byrd found out she would receive the check for her foundation on April 7th, it was a bitter sweet moment. April 7th was also her son Jensen’s birthday, who passed away in 2010 after battling a rare cancer known as neuroblastoma. After her son’s passing, Melissa founded Jensen’s Heart of a Gold to help provide financial relief to families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. She and her family members have continued to gather and celebrate his birthday every year, but this year was going to be a little different.
When they learned about the importance of the day, Wind Creek Atmore (WCA) team members decided to honor Jensen’s memory in a huge way. “We were greeted by an amazing staff who had no doubt who we were. They had a table set up with balloons, décor and the biggest cake Jensen has ever had,” Byrd said. “I am not sure any of these people can truly know what this means to me - to us!” Following the event, Jensen’s family and friends along with WCA team members wrote birthday wishes to Jensen on paper lanterns and released them into in the night sky from the amphitheater.
The celebration continued in Montgomery where Wind Creek Montgomery and Wind Creek Wetumpka presented nine winning nonprofits with $5,000 each. For Elmore County 4-H, the money guarantees new programs and resources such as an outdoor classroom and career exploration field trips. The mission of 4-H is to help “young people from rural and urban areas explore their interests and expand their awareness of our world while providing opportunities to develop a greater sense of who they are and who they can become…” While its most popular programs teach outdoor skills like archery and sportsmanship, other programs focus on S.T.E.A.M. fields (science, technology, engineering, art and math). Programs also teach leadership, goal-setting and healthy living.
Laurie Weldon, Regional Extension Agent, is working with the group to launch a new in-school yoga class for students. “It has been proven that yoga helps youth make clearer decisions and learn how to deal with their emotions,” Weldon said. Through activities and experiences Elmore County 4-H equips students from all backgrounds to dream more and achieve more. County Extension Coordinator, Katrina Mitchell explained, “[4-H] is more than cows, sows and plows…. We try to bring the youth in to things they are interested in so they can make a difference for the future.”
For each of the winning nonprofits, a share of $125,000 means more lives will be changed for the better. Some lives will be changed through education and awareness; others will be changed through services and programs. A common link between each of Wind Creek’s $125k Giveaway winners is that, no matter the method, they make communities a better place to live today and tomorrow. To see the full list of nonprofit winners along with their video entries and photos, visit: