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This is primarily going to be a photodiary about our amazingly successful Netroots for the Troops event at Netroots Nation this year. However, I must first tell you that Tony (TexDem) is currently in the hospital in Minneapolis. He has been having trouble with kidney stones and was in a high level of pain and discomfort throughout the week, even as he organized and executed the remarkable thing that is Netroots for the Troops. This morning his pain level sent him to the ER with Lynn (Velovixen). After doing a CAT scan, they learned he had a 1 cm (1 cm!!!) kidney stone blocking things up.

He is now receiving morphine to control the pain and they will conduct a lithotripsy which will hopefully bust the stone up into a lot of smaller, more easily passed pieces. Tony is in for a bit of rough patch even under the best of conditions so, please, send some positive, healing mental energy his way as he and Lynn get through this.

UPDATE: Tony is now in surgery (5:30 central time) and they have elected not to do the lithotropsy. Rather, they are putting in a stent to help relieve the pressure so he can get home to Charlotte with Lynn and see his urologist.

Tony, drugged out as he is, has actually been able to have a gander at this diary and some of the comments and Lynn just told me she can feel the positive vibing coming from all of Tony's friends. Keep vibing, folks. It's a Good Thing. I will be taking Lynn back to the hotel later this evening after Tony is settled so that she can pick up some things she wasn't able to grab before they rode the ambulance to the hospital.

UPDATE 2: 7:15 pm central. Tony is out of surgery, awake and alert. Lynn and I are fetching some of the things they need from their hotel room and then she's heading back over.  Keep on vibin'...

UPDATE 3: 8:15 a.m. - I just got off the phone with Superman Tony and the stent is working, allowing fluid to pass, though not without "discomfort" (yeeouch!) They are still on schedule to fly back home this evening. Great news! Tony sends his thanks and gratitude for the great outpouring of love from the Kos community. He has been able to read your comments.

Now, on with the show!

All photos by kayakbiker for whom I give my sincerest thanks and gratitude.

This year, Netroots for the Troops was an unparalleled success. We had more volunteers, more overall interest, and we packed 300 boxes in 33 minutes, beating our previous record by nearly 10 minutes. That's roughly one box every 7 seconds. Seriously.

Here's what we started with:


Six pallets of materials for the CARE packages

When the US Postal Service delivered our flat rate boxes for packing, we immediately realized that they had sent the wrong ones -- much too small. So Velovixen and I hopped in the car and drove across town to the main post office. No luck, they were out of them and we needed 300. They sent us to another location where an extremely friendly postal worker helped us load my Civic to the gills with flat rate boxes.

Over the next couple of days, we stamped each box on each of the four sides with the NFTT logo, assembled the boxes, printed out customs forms, cut the forms in two, stuffed them into envelopes and adhered the envelopes to the boxes.


Eclectablog and NormAl1792 stamping and assembling boxes

Meanwhile, we had folks staffing the NFTT booth, getting letters written to include in the boxes, signing up volunteers and taking donations.


l to r: NormAl1792, Velovixen, CA_Berkeley_WV, lulu57, Common Sense Mariner, and Tex Dem


Meteor Blades


Eclectablog and Smiley Creek

Saturday morning, bright and early, we staged all the materials along to rows of tables and got things ready.


kirbybruno staging items


Staged materials, ready to be packed


Bill from Portland Maine Darth Vaders Tex Dem

In addition to eight letters, here's what we put in the boxes (probably a bit incomplete since I'm going by memory.)

  • Two different sizes of sturdy gloves
  • Sand scarves
  • Beef jerky
  • Skittles
  • Two types of wet wipes
  • Pens
  • Mixed nuts
  • Gel shoe inserts
  • Toothbrush
  • Peanut butter
  • Razors
  • Tic-Tacs
  • Instant coffee
  • Oatmeal bars

At 1:00 pm, we started packing boxes. We had members of Congress such as Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ) and Rep. Tim Walz (MN)


Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz

Lt. Dan Choi stopped by:


Lt. Dan Choi with the lovely Velovixen

As we did last year, we also received help from volunteers from Walgreens.


Walgreens and NFTT volunteers

This year, instead of just a handful of folks helping pack boxes, we had hundreds. The line to pack a box stretched back farther than we ever imagined it would. Everyone was smiling, chatting, and not a few were wiping away tears. I spoke with a number of people who, in the middle of everything, realized what they were part of and wept.


jlms_qkw on the left, Jonathan Tasini on the right.

Common Sense Mariner and texasmom front and center

Here's one minute of the thirty-three we spent packing boxes:

And, then, before we knew it, we were done.


Done and done!

The amount of positive energy coming out of this project is hard to describe. Every step of the way, people went out of their way to help us. When I had the letters photocopied at the printers, several of the folks helping me were in the military or had been. They happily worked with me to get the letters printed and collated with our cover letter in the least expensive way possible and then, for one evening, granted me "military" status so that I could get the 10% discount.

It takes 364 days and 23 and half hours to get ready for this event and 33 minutes to make it happen. Please consider making a financial donation next year and helping to raise money by forming a team so that we can do 600 boxes (or more) at Netroots Nation 2012.

I would personally like to thank all of our many, many volunteers. I won't name them specifically because I am sure to forget someone. Suffice it to say that there were several folks who stepped up in a very big way to make this happen and all of them have my gratitude. Also, everyone who contributed funds this past year: thank you!

Two people, however, do deserve special mention. Tony (TexDem) and Lynn (Velovixen) are tireless and passionate supporters for this project. Without their behind the scenes efforts throughout the year, this event would not exist, much less be the wild success that it is. Again, please send positive, healing energy to them as they work through Tony's health crisis.

P.S. One more thing. I have to share this Twitter exchange that I had Saturday morning. I tweaked the nose of our Right Online conservative counterparts with this tweet:

If #ro11 is going to follow #NN11 around the USA, at least match our 300+ CARE pkgs going to troops overseas. #NFTT

I received a response back from a conservative named @matthewhurtt:

Statistically conservatives give way more money to charity than liberals.

My response? The only one possible:

Our troops aren't "charity".

Cross-posted at Eclectablog.

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 01:23 PM PDT.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse and Netroots For The Troops®.

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