By Grace McCrary and Kate Sundstrom

Over 2,600 attendees and 650 exhibitor representatives had a fantastic time building “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” in Kissimmee, Florida at the 67th  NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo. NIRSA members came together from all around the world from April 3–6 for what 2015–2016 NIRSA President Stan Shingles calls “the NIRSA family reunion.” Members had a chance to learn, network, and socialize together—we truly had a wonderful time in Florida!

This year, thirteen NIRSA 2016 attendees volunteered to take part in a new “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign. This campaign aims to bring more personal looks at various conference events to all Association members, whether you were able to attend NIRSA 2016 or are considering what you might find at NIRSA 2017.

Did you miss out on visiting the Career Opportunity Center this year? Don’t worry, Samantha Wallace—Coordinator for Youth and Activity Programming at the University of Arizona—writes all about her experience at the 2016 COC. Curious about what Take a Student to Lunch/Meet a Mentee for Life is like? Get ready to learn all about how this premier networking opportunity went for three different NIRSA members!

So read all about the 2016 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo—even if you were there, this is your chance to see it in an entirely new light!

A record year!

This was a record year for the NIRSA Foundation, which began NIRSA 2016 with a lofty goal of raising $78,150. Thanks to the dedicated support of NIRSA members, the Foundation was able to reach this goal! It also reached its goal of seeing 500+ individual donors contribute during the conference!

Just three conferences and two calendar years ago, the Annual Conference giving campaign raised $28,000 through 171 donors. Since then, we have nearly tripled both the amount of giving and the number of contributors as part of a new strategy to create a culture of giving. To give donors more discretion about how their donation dollars are used, the Foundation has recently introduced four fields of interest with the aim of dedicating support for NIRSA members through scholarships, research, leadership development, and student officials’ development.

So what will the NIRSA Foundation do with your contributions? The philanthropic arm of NIRSA aims to increase the number of scholarships it awards by six to ten each year until we reach 80 student and 40 professional scholarships. In addition, we want to double the amount of dollars we currently allocate to research initiatives and hope to underwrite another high-level professional development opportunity similar to the NIRSA School of Collegiate Recreation. And, finally, we will support the student official’s development program that occurs at the NIRSA national flag football and basketball championships.

The NIRSA Foundation Board is very excited about the outstanding engagement by our members, its potential to support the next generation of members, and the potential for advancing the profession.

At the 2016 Annual Conference, the Foundation table saw lots of activity from members who purchased T-shirts and quilt raffle tickets, registered for the Mark Fletcher Fun Run/Walk, donated T-shirts for the T-shirt Competition, and made generous contributions to the Foundation. Professional members had to give a minimum of $120 to be recognized on the giving board. In the anticipation that the Foundation would reach their participation goal of 500 contributors, two giving boards were created. By day two, the icons began to appear on the overflow giving board!

This year’s quilt was handcrafted and sewn by none other than Mama Lee Wasson. While the final numbers of dollars raised is still being calculated, it is projected that the quilt raffle raised just over $2,500 for the future of collegiate recreation.

The 22nd Annual Golf Tournament  celebrated a number of firsts. Among the most notable were the record-breaking number of corporate sponsors, and the first time this tournament exceeded 200 participants, with approximately 220 individuals teeing off at the Disney Palm and Disney Magnolia golf courses. Students, professionals, associate members, and exhibitors took to the courses on a perfectly-temperate day in anticipation of some good light-hearted competition, good food, and some amazing sunshine! The Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank its partners, volunteers, and staff for executing a magical and successful tournament!

The champions from the top three golf teams were Sea Couillar, Ben Stark of Woodway, Andy Milton  of Saint Ambrose University, Trent Morgan of California State University-San Bernardino, Chris Hutton of BSN Sports, Dave Tippett of Middle Tennessee State University, Chuck Vogt of BSN Sports, Eric Westerman of BSN Sports, and Chris Nelms, Courtney Spicer, Brion Rittenberry of Mondo, and Dan Kehoe. Congratulations!

On the last day of the conference, more than 145 students and professionals braved the cool morning at 6:30am for the Mark Fletcher Fun Run/Walk. Thank you to sponsors, volunteers, and staff for helping our sprinters cross the finish line. Our first three winners were Alex Accetta of Portland State University, Becky Parks of American University, and Bernardo Tapia of Stanford University with times of 19:35, 19:35, and 19:55 respectively. Building on the tradition started last year, the course sweepers carried Mick Deluca—this year’s Honor Award recipient, as well as longtime supporter of the NIRSA Foundation and mentee of the late Mark Fletcher—across the finish line.

Thank you to all students, professionals, associate members, sponsors, and exhibitors for supporting the NIRSA Foundation at the 2016 Annual Conference! We could not have added to “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” without you!

If you missed us at the Foundation table and would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the NIRSA Foundation—a 501(c)(3) organization—simply visit our website to become part of our culture of giving. We are especially hoping to identify individuals who are willing to make a recurring monthly gift.  If you are interested in helping the NIRSA Foundation support the future of collegiate recreation, please contact NIRSA Director of Philanthropy Kate Sundstrom by email or phone: (541) 368-5840.

Looking forward to National Harbor

We hope this year’s “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign has reminded you of how wonderful your time in Kissimmee was and made you look forward to another fantastic conference in National Harbor, Maryland in 2017. In National Harbor, there will be even more amazing educational sessions, inspiring speakers, a great Expo Hall, and so many fun networking opportunities!

Consider joining the ongoing “I write for NIRSA” campaign—lend your voice to the Association and gain professional development by writing feature articles for the NIRSA News. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring your unique perspective to all Association members. We would love to hear from you! If you’re interested in writing for NIRSA, please contact NIRSA Communications Coordinator Nazifa Islam.

Members can relive some fantastic NIRSA 2016 memories by checking out the NIRSA Facebook page, and the @nirsalive Instagram and Twitter feeds; a search for the #NIRSA2016 hashtag will bring up great moments from Kissimmee. Photos taken by Steven Miller, NIRSA’s official conference photographer, will be available in a matter of weeks—keep an eye on the NIRSA News for that announcement!

The Gaylord Palms was the perfect place to reconnect with friends and colleagues, to reaffirm our commitment to our strategic values, to strengthen our core competencies, and to support the important work NIRSA members are doing every day in the collegiate recreation field. We had a wonderful time building “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” with our NIRSA family and cannot wait to see everyone again next February in National Harbor for NIRSA 2017!

If you have questions or comments about NIRSA 2016 or NIRSA 2017, please contact NIRSA Director of Professional Development Kristen Gleason.