# Thursday, 23 August 2012

As most of you know I am very active in the development community and one piece of that is my involvement with the Midwest Give Camp organization. The Midwest Give Camp organization is a small group of dedicated community leaders that plan and carry out yearly Give Camps in the Midwest. This year I had the honor of organizing/leading the Midwest Give Camp. The event was held the weekend leading in to That Conference at the same venue. I wanted to share details on the charity that we worked with and what the Give Campers were able to provide for them.

For the 2012 installment of the Midwest Give Camp we worked with the charity Katharine’s Wish. Katharine’s Wish was founded by Katharine Rhoten of Eau Claire, WI. Katharine’s father Doug is also an active member of the developer community who runs the Chippewa Valley .NET User Group. Doug also happens to be a personal friend of mind.

While on the family’s first trip to Disney World in 2008 Katharine became seriously ill and was rushed to the hospital. The Rhoten family spent 3 long days in the hospital watching Katharine undergo numerous tests, most involving painful prods and pokes. Through all of those procedures Doug and his wife Kristin where amazed at the positive attitude Katharine was able to keep. This was due, in large part, to a small gesture of the hospital staff. Prior to any painful procedure, the hospital staff gave Katharine a small stuffed animal. This always put a smile on Katharine’s face and let her know that it may hurt for a bit but in the end everything was going to be alright. To get an idea of the number of procedures Katharine was subjected to during her stay at the hospital…Doug had to ship 2 boxes of stuffed animals back to WI J

The experience provided two major life-changing events for Katharine. The first was that she was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and the second that she vowed to “pay it forward” by doing everything she could do to make sure that children in the hospital have the same positive experience she had. Upon returning home Katharine got to work on making this happen by using her allowance, birthday money, and funds from a lucrative lemonade stand to purchase stuffed animals to donate to local hospitals that she donates each year, on the anniversary of her diagnosis, to local hospitals.

Katharine’s Wish has grown to now include multiple drop off locations where the community can drop off stuffed animals and books to be donated. In the five years since her diagnosis, Katharine, with the help of her younger brother Spencer, has donated thousands of stuffed animals and books to the hospitals in her community.

It was an honor to be able to use my skills, along with the skills of 12 other talented geeks, to provide Katharine with a platform to grow her cause. The result of our work is the official Katharine’s Wish web site. The site was coded in MVC 4/HTML5/Kendo UI on the front end and EF Code First/SQL on the back end.

I ask that you please check out http://www.KatharinesWish.org to learn more about this awesome girl and please consider donating to her cause.

posted on Thursday, 23 August 2012 16:22:00 (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Monday, 02 April 2012

I am very honored and excited about leading up the efforts for the next Midwest Give Camp.  For this installment we have been lucky enough to team up with the folks at That Conference and are hoping to ride the hype and excitement of this awesome event for another successful and rewarding Give Camp.

The Give Camp will be held at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI Saturday August 11th through Sunday August 12th, the weekend leading into That Conference.

We are working with an awesome charity that will no doubt be very familiar and close to a lot of your hearts and once we have all the details ironed out I will be going public with them.

For now block off the dates on your calendar and stay tuned for more details! 

posted on Monday, 02 April 2012 08:06:18 (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, 12 March 2012

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being a part of the first Skyline Give Camp. If you are not familiar with the Give Camp concept you can found out more here. What it boils down to is a bunch of people, mostly developers but project managers and designers as well, get together for 2 to 3 days, typically Friday through Sunday, and do some sort of work for a charity. Typically this involves either creating a new website for the charity or enhancing the charity’s current website. I have been involved in Give Camps in the past and find them to be very rewarding. The Give Camps that I have been involved in in the past have been in the Chicago area and open to the public usually with only the die hardest of community geeks attending.

About a month back I was approached by my boss and two of my colleagues about helping with an internal Give Camp for a charity called Riverview Gardens. I thought this would be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved as well as an opportunity to give back to the local community so I got on board…but I was leery. By this time the people I was approached by had already been working with the charity and had mock ups of what they wanted. In my past Give Camp experiences the work had always been limited to a public facing website, but this charity already had a public facing site in the works. What Skyline would be providing for the charity was a full featured volunteer management system not only for the desktop web browser, but also for the mobile web as well as native iPhone and Android applications. Needless to say this was a huge undertaking.

The amount of work was not my only concern. Typically these events are held in major hubs, like Chicago, and they draw developers from all over the Midwest. For this Give Camp the pool was Skyline employees, currently about 100 people, so I was worried about the turn out. Would there be enough interest in the event to even get it off the ground? We put out a survey to all employees and I was amazed by the great response. Out of a pool of 100 people, where actually only 80 or so are developers/designers/project managers, we had 30 people signed up. That is outstanding, and truly a testament to the type of people I have the pleasure to work with at Skyline Technologies.

Another concern I had was that in order to make the event a learning experience and to get in some free training for the attendees we chose to go with ASP.NET MVC 4, Entity Framework Code First, jQuery and jQuery Mobile for the desktop web and mobile web applications and Web API for our RESTful service layer. These are all new technologies that the majority of the people signed up to participate had very little working experience with.

So we did some planning, broke everyone into teams and prepared for the big event.

The event went off without a hitch. The eagerness to learn and to teach by everyone involved was outstanding. I was amazed at not only the amount of work that was accomplished but by the quality of work. At the wrap of day 2 we estimated that in total we where ~85% complete with the work. Unfortunately since the sites and apps we created are not public you will have to just take my word for it

This event was truly a testament to the type of organization that Skyline Technologies is and to the people that make up the Skyline family. I look forward to being a part of it for a very long time and hopefully we can make the Skyline Give Camp a yearly event, or maybe every other year…I am not as young as I used to be.

Oh yeah…did I mention we are hiring!

posted on Monday, 12 March 2012 08:27:59 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [3]