By Carlos Casas, public relations manager for CFCA
I recently got the opportunity to help represent CFCA at the 2012 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim. The event is sponsored by the Office of Religious Education, a department of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and is said to be the largest yearly gathering of its type in the world.
We regularly travel to national conferences to raise awareness of CFCA and our Hope for a Family sponsorship program, but having never attended this event, I was not sure what to expect.
Throughout the conference, the CFCA team interacted with clergy and staff members from various Catholic groups and organizations. We also met several vendors and others participating in the conference and discussed ways to increase awareness of CFCA’s work.
The best part for me, however, was meeting many current sponsors and hearing about the impact sponsorship has had on their lives.
One of these sponsors was Daniela Bradvica, a 19-year-old college student who has taken it upon herself to encourage young students to grow in their faith through sponsoring a child in need.
Daniela is trying very hard to launch a program for Catholic elementary schools to participate in sponsorship. It would encourage classrooms to sponsor a child in order to teach students about the Gospel call to serve people living in poverty, and to give them the opportunity to learn about a new culture through their sponsored friends.
Like many great ideas, Daniela’s has encountered some obstacles, but she continues to push forward with great enthusiasm and conviction.
I scheduled time while in the Los Angeles area to attend a meeting with Daniela at a local school to help promote her initiative.
Daniela was given less than 20 minutes to present her idea, and from the beginning it was clear that the school representatives had all but made up their minds that this program was not for them.
Despite this, Daniela remained energized as she described the impact that sponsorship could make in the lives of their students as sponsors of children in need in developing countries.
Although the school officials did not commit to launching Daniela’s program schoolwide, they did agree to present the idea to their faculty to allow individual classrooms to test it.
Having experienced Daniela’s contagious energy and passion for helping others, I invited her to join us at the CFCA booth in the last day of conference.
To see her excitement as I handed her an official name badge, you would have thought I had given her tickets to nearby Disneyland.
When Daniela arrived at the conference, she had a huge smile.
Her smile got even bigger when she saw the photos and profiles of children waiting for sponsors, and she was ready to find a sponsor for each one of the children.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that these conferences don’t always result in many sponsorships, so I was glad when someone signed up only minutes after she arrived.
Daniela turned to me and lit up like a Christmas tree.
Imagine my surprise as the day progressed and vendors started to close shop, yet more people continued to sign up to sponsor!
Although Daniela did not speak to all the new sponsors, her mere presence at the booth seemed to have opened people’s hearts to our message.
My favorite part was when Daniela ran after someone she knew and convinced them to sponsor a child just minutes before the conference center shut off the lights.
In fact, we were still filling out the paperwork when the lights went off.
By the end of the day, a total of seven children and one elderly friend had found sponsors in less than four hours since Daniela arrived ñ more than the total number of sponsors we had found during the two previous conference days.
It was the perfect end to a great event!
Meeting Daniela was not just a highlight of the conference, but also a highlight of my time at CFCA!
If you know of any schools in the Los Angeles area that would be interested in learning about Daniela’s program, please ask them to contact Carlos Casas at firstname.lastname@example.org.