The Power of Storytelling in Nonprofit Events

Infographic for Beat the Streets Los Angeles - design by Brian Guerrero

It’s Event ‘Design’, not Event ‘Planning’

As April wraps up, it’s with great satisfaction that we look in review at the 2nd Annual Benefit for Beat the Streets Los Angeles, a nonprofit where I direct a lot of my creative energy at.

For the last blog post of the month, Beat the Streets LA published this infographic (above) titled ‘By the Numbers’.  As the dust settled after the April 10th Event and figures were calculated we were affirmed that non only was the Benefit successful as a quality event in telling our organization’s story, but it was equally successful in dollars raised.  The best of both worlds.  So with much pride, I enjoyed designing the infographic.  Looking at the ‘Numbers’, two things are certain… first, evidenced by so many generous donations people really believe in the Beat the Streets mission… and second, people love ice cream sandwiches! :)

Creating a successful fundraiser is as much about design and storytelling as it’s about event planning.  While there is a venue to book, vendors to hire and invitations to send out this is only a fraction of what goes into a nonprofit event.  In fact, while those first three boxes-to-check so to speak seem routine, each offer an opportunity to tell the story about an organization.  Our choice of venue in this case was no exception.  The Holding Co., an old mechanic’s shop northwest of downtown LA turned-event-space was a fantastic match for the Beat the Streets LA brand.

 

Guests of the 2nd Annual Benefit arrive through an alleyway and enter through an industrial steel door. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Guests of the 2nd Annual Benefit arrive through an alleyway and enter through an industrial steel door. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

As guests entered the space they were introduced to the first interactive component of the Benefit, a birch wood faced wall comprised of 70 individual wood plaques with CNC inscribed numbers representing dollar values. This wasn’t just a backdrop for our evening’s stage, this was a donor opportunity, The Camp Scholarship Wall.  A call-to-action which prompted guests to pledge dollar values displayed on the wood panels pursuant of one unified goal for the evening, to fund 50 Summer camp scholarships for our organization’s youth.  A tall order, but guests answered the call within 3 hours we raised $25,500.  Every panel turned over.

The Camp Scholarship Wall with a few early pledges. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Camp Scholarship Wall with a few early pledges. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Panels with CNC cut pledge values. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Panels with CNC cut pledge values. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Founder and President of the Board Andy Barth (pictured left), congratulates fellow Board Member Jeff Newman on a very generous pledge. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Founder and President of the Board Andy Barth (pictured left), congratulates fellow Board Member Jeff Newman on a very generous pledge. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Camp Scholarship Wall was a focal point throughout the evening and stood as center stage. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Camp Scholarship Wall was a focal point throughout the evening and stood at center stage. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

With all 70 panels turned over, and that particular goal reached, a message affirming the achievement which will provide a life experience to boys and girls of Beat the Streets LA in the coming summer.  This shows the power of a live call-to-action made interactive.

The evening's MC, DJ Bino congratulates attendees on turning over every panel on the board, a total pledge of $25,500. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The evening’s MC, DJ Bino congratulates attendees on turning over every panel on the board, a total pledge of $25,500. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Moving to the indoor space of the venue we curated a gallery of moments and portraits of our youth.  A moment in the evening where people can pause and immerse in some highlights of the past year.

Photo gallery featuring young leaders of Beat the Streets Los Angeles. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Photo gallery featuring young leaders of Beat the Streets Los Angeles. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

A forward about the gallery of photos.  Photo by Dana Barsuhn

A forward about the gallery of photos. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The series is a collection of photographs I took over the course of this past season and in the forward, displayed above as a vinyl decal I wrote, “Individual portraits featured here include Leaderships Award recipients recognizing student athletes who exhibit traits of commitment, accountability, perseverance and respect.”

Like the vinyl decal for the Gallery description, we used the vinyl medium as an opportunity to communicate our message and identity throughout the Holding Co’s industrial space.

The Beat the Streets Los Angeles tagline "Building Tomorrow's Leaders" displayed across the mezzanine wall in vinyl, black.  Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Beat the Streets Los Angeles tagline “Building Tomorrow’s Leaders” displayed across the mezzanine wall in vinyl, black. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

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The quote from a young student athlete of Beat the Streets LA. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Using a common tool of fundraising events, we took the opportunity of a live & silent auctions to place touches of the organization’s identity and style into both the items and the setup.

The silent auction table in the foreground with the photo gallery in the background.  Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The silent auction table in the foreground with the photo gallery in the background. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Just in the Beat the Streets LA branded apparel alone we raised $1000.

Beat the Streets LA apparel custom made for the auction.

Beat the Streets LA apparel custom made for the auction.

For the fourth and final featured component of the evening, we presented our latest short film Move Your Feet.  

A story about an adolescent girl who through her mother’s guidance and the sport of wrestling overcomes her largest challenge, her past.

This four and a half minute short which I wrote and produced, and was directed by Shawn Frederick, fit perfectly into the evening’s program as it followed the opening short speeches and preceded the live auction.  You can watch the short below and read more about it in our portfolio section Short Film – ‘Move Your Feet’.

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That’s me, Brian Guerrero, standing on the right, getting ready to introduce the film. Photo by Dana Barsuhn.

Lightly applied throughout the venue we had info available about the organization to compliment speeches letting our guests know why we’ve all come together on that Friday evening in Los Angeles.

Printed program for the 2nd Annual Benefit. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Printed program for the 2nd Annual Benefit. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Beat the Streets Los Angeles door prizes for guests compliments of sponsor Elevee Lifestyle. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Beat the Streets Los Angeles door prizes for guests compliments of sponsor Elevee. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Who doesn’t like swag? At the end of the evening, in addition to many thank you’s we provided some parting gifts.  Special thanks to élevée for sponsoring these door prizes and some of the fantastic auction items. And a special thanks to our event photographer Dana Barsuhn.

In Retrospect

From an architectural background, I think of how someone moves through a space and what that experience is.  As a storyteller I think of the narrative.  Event design is a convergence of the two and an opportunity to tell an organization’s story.

With a scholarship donation wall, a photo gallery, an auction and a film we had all the tools we needed to tell the story and captivate our audience.  They came as guests and left as ambassadors.

Beat the Streets LA Youth meet Team USA

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Aaron Pico and Mercedes Rodriguez at the 2015 World Cup Open Practice for Team USA.

 

On April 7, the United States Men’s Freestyle Wrestling Team arrived at Santa Monica High School for their first practice of the week in California leading up to the World Cup (April 11 & 12 at The Forum).

One of many great things about the sport of wrestling is it’s generous access to the discipline’s very best.  Beat the Streets Los Angeles youth had the tremendous opportunity to observe Team USA train at the open practice that morning.  After the Team finished practice they took time to meet with our youth wrestlers.  Amongst a morning filled with highlights the bright eyed youth wrestlers sat and talked with 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner, World Champion Stephen Neal (who happens to be a 3x Super Bowl Champion with New England Patriots), and local area phenom and Cadet World Champion Aaron Pico.   Many thanks to USA Wrestling for this opportunity and for Coach Mark Black and Santa Monica High for being such gracious hosts.

Enjoy some of the moments I captured from that morning.

To see a full album of photos from the World Cup head on over to this part of our website – 2015 World Cup Freestyle

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Joey McKenna and Aaron Pico

 

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Jordan Burroughs and Moza Fey

 

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Aaron Pico and Joey McKenna at Team USA Open Practice.

 

 

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US Men’s Freestyle Wrestling Team completes a practice at Santa Monica High School.

 

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2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist Coleman Scott takes time to speak with Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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Helen Maroulis, Victoria Anthony and Elena Pirozhkova.

 

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Elena Pirozhkova, Victoria Anthony and Helen Maroulis take time to speak with Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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Helen Maroulis and Elena Pirozhkova sign autographs for Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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World Champion and 3x Super Bowl Champion Stephen Neal takes time to speak with Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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3x NCAA Champion Ed Ruth takes time to speak with Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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Local phenoms Anthony Valenica, Zahid Valencia and Cade Olivas take time to speak with Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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Aaron Pico with Beat the Streets LA youth wrestler.

 

 

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Jordan Burroughs takes time to speak with Beat the Streets LA youth.

 

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Jordan Burroughs and Jessica Vasquez

 

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Mercedes Rodriguez, Jordan Burroughs and Gianna Anaya

 

Presenting the new short film: Move Your Feet

In association with Beat the Streets Los Angeles (BTSLA) and Frederick Pictures, we are proud to present our new short film Move Your Feet.

A story about an adolescent girl who through her mother’s guidance and the sport of wrestling overcomes her largest challenge, her past.

The fictional story is inspired by the real world themes that challenge today’s youth and stars BTSLA wrestlers Mercedes Rodriguez, Gianna Anaya and San Pedro Coach Roman Hernandez.

Serving as writer and producer, I had the great opportunity to work with veteran photographer and director Shawn Frederick.

The film premiered on Friday April 10th at BTSLA’s 2nd Annual Benefit to much acclaim and was part of a very successful night of fundraising and celebration of the organization’s progress in just three short years since inception.

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That’s me, Brian Guerrero, standing on the right, getting ready to introduce the film. Photo by Dana Barsuhn.

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Every filmmaker loves a packed house. Photo by Dana Barsuhn.

 

At the conclusion of the film I had the pleasure of recognizing our fantastic cast and crew.  Our costar Gianna Anaya who played both wrestler and hooded stranger stepped up to receive a big round of applause.  Gianna is one of BTSLA’s best youth wrestlers and has a bright future both on and off the mat.

Fittingly, to conclude the film portion of the evening, I turned the mic over to our star, Mercedes Rodriguez.  As a strong, brave young leader she stood before 200+ guests and delivered a touching thank you speech.  My favorite part of that speech:

“It’s enabled me to take the competitive aspect of the sport into the classroom”

Wisdom beyond her years.

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BTSLA student athlete Mercedes Rodriguez addresses guests of the 2nd Annual Benefit. Photo by Dana Barsuhn.

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this journey of a project… a film for the youth, about the youth, capped by the youth. Tomorrow’s leaders.

 

Special thanks to Dana Barsuhn for capturing the evening in photographs.  To see more of Dana’s work visit http://www.danabarsuhn.com/

Short Film ‘Move Your Feet’ will premiere at Beat the Streets Los Angeles 2nd Annual Benefit

We are excited to present the trailer for Move Your Feet, a story about an adolescent girl who through her mother’s guidance and the sport of wrestling overcomes her largest challenge, her past.

Beginning last fall, I had the honor of writing and producing the short film for the non profit Beat the Streets Los Angeles (BTSLA), an organization which I serve as a Board Member and Creative Director.

The fictional story is inspired by the real world themes that challenge today’s youth and stars BTSLA wrestlers Mercedes Rodriguez, Gianna Anaya and San Pedro Coach Roman Hernandez.

Directed by Shawn Frederick, the short film will premiere at the 2nd Annual Benefit on Friday April 10, 2015 and then will be released online at btsla.org the following day.

With BTSLA’s vision of creating sustainable wrestling programs accessible to all youth, the organization invites supporters and future advocates to attend the Benefit and enjoy the live premiere of Move Your Feet.

Ticket sales and donations made here go toward our programming and are the lifeline of our future growth.

Purchase your tickets by clicking HERE.

BTSLA Invitation to 2nd Annual Benefit

Wrestling in February: The Sport’s Month of Emotional Gamut

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The Ubiquitous Landscape

All across the country there’s tens of thousands of young men and women buckling down for the month of February, many of whom are putting in the extra hours beyond their coaches’ requirements, the added miles beyond the team runs, the extra lift… the extra.

From middle schools to high schools to the collegiate ranks, February marks the beginning of the end, an end of a wrestling season. As with many things in life, the ends are always met with emotion and often fraught, running us through much of the spectrum of human emotion. Anxiety, certitude, fear, joy, sorrow. Sport serves as life’s incubator for our youth.

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Beat the Streets Los Angeles

Attending the February Jamboree, a youth wrestling tournament hosted by Beat the Streets Los Angeles for its constituents, I caught a glimpse of this emotional gamut and brought my camera along.

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What fascinates me is that even at this local and novice level, these young wrestlers, many of whom have less than a year of experience in the sport exhibit some of the same emotions we see on the larger stage at a high school league or state championship, or what’s more at the collegiate level. The skill, athletic and experience gap between the youth novice and the college All American may be colossal but the raw output of emotion is very familiar.

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Sure, there are no league or section titles on the line for these youth who participated at the Jamboree this month, it’s about experience, but you wouldn’t know judging by the output of emotion. They compete wholeheartedly and wear their heart on their sleeve… or singlet.

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And though the sport’s victors are celebrated on their individual merits. It’s a sport that needs a family’s support.

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And the emotions, no matter up or down, need nurturing by community.


To learn more about this nonprofit youth organization, visit Beat the Streets Los Angeles.

Beat the Streets LA – First Annual Impact Report

As 2015 is just around the corner, the organization Beat the Streets Los Angeles, a youth development nonprofit I volunteer for has just published its first Annual Impact Report.  The booklet is an overview of current wrestling programs, participation numbers since inception, a summary of last season’s highlights and a splendid spread of graphics accompanied by photos of the youth which the organization serves.

This past summer I sat down with the Executive team for BTSLA and wrote a series of briefs for our organization’s marketing materials.  The goal was to create a collateral kit to enable our staff, fellow board members and other organizational advocates to communicate what Beat the Streets is, what are the goals and how we are making an impact pursuant of fundraising and growing both our resources and our community.  As Creative Director I wanted to ensure that the tone and style of this kit not only aligned with our organization’s identity but in fact could elevate it.

We commissioned Juliana Arboleda (my sister-in-law), a Junior Art Director who currently works for Ogilvy & Mather Colombia, to design the three part kit; marketing deck, brochure and the Annual Impact Report.  Juliana (Juli) had done work in the months prior with Beat the Streets including invitation designs for our Annual Benefit and an announcement for our Camp Scholarship fundraiser.  And whilst the collateral kit would prove to be our largest project for marketing, in my opinion it’s Juli’s finest work yet with our organization.  Having just mailed out hardcopies to our donors last week, we’re already getting a great response on the Impact Report.  We hope it inspires our community to continue to be a part of BTSLA and what’s more an advocate for youth development through sports.

A big thanks to Juli for the fantastic work!  If you’d like to see some of her other creative work head on over to her site Juli’sForest.

Be sure to flip through the digital copy of the Impact Report below.

Beat the Streets LA, My Favorite Intersection

This month marked the start of the Third Season for Beat the Streets Los Angeles, a sports-based youth development non-profit that I volunteer for.  For me it’s been a convergence of two things that are very near and dear; the sport of wrestling and being a creative.  Perhaps two things that I never imagined would intersect in my personal life.

Walking away from the sport, as a competitor, in 1998 due to injury was very difficult for me.  In many ways it was more challenging than the injury itself.  Doing something day-in and day-out, year-around from age 8 to 19… it’s something that becomes part of your identity.

I was fortunate to find architecture, and transfer into it as a Major for college.  And in some sense get lost in it.  Becoming immersed in architecture, particularly architecture school isn’t something that happened overnight but slowly over a couple years began to shape me, not unlike my years wrestling.   As in sport, the outcomes planned are not always reached but what might be gained along the way are intangibles; resolve, adaptability, an open mind.  These traits that cultivate growth through sports also foster creativity.  It was the kind of transition I needed after wrestling.  Unbeknownst to me, it was also something that would bring me back to the sport.

After college I headed to the East Coast eventually landing in New York at an architectural facade consulting firm in Lower Manhattan.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend of 2007, my wife Kat and I drove up to Albany to have lunch with my cousin Eric who was coaching (Assistant Coach) his university’s wrestling team, Oklahoma State, at the Journeyman Duals.  Still a fan of the sport, but not an active member in the wrestling community, I’d occasionally meet up with Eric to watch his team compete live, but mainly it was to just visit with him, as cousins do.  During our visit that weekend I chatted briefly with the head coach, John Smith, who I had gotten to know over the years while Eric was competing for Oklahoma State.  John asked me about work, about living in New York City and asked “Are you staying involved in wrestling?” to which I hesitantly answered ‘no’.  Without pause he suggested I get involved with a youth wrestling program in the City. He gave me a name and urged me to call.  He said they needed coaches.  The program was Beat the Streets.

I eventually followed up.  I contacted the director and he invited me to come check out the program.  It so happened to be in the neighborhood of my office.  The biggest school district in America and arguably the largest market of architectural firms in the world, and this one little school gymnasium for Beat the Street’s headquarters and my then office were 3 blocks from each other!  Fortuitous?

What started as ‘maybe I’ll stop by from time to time and help their coaches with the kids’ turned into two years as the Volunteer Coach for their training center, traveling to competitions throughout New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Dakota.  That time with Beat the Streets New York, the original program in this now nationwide grassroots wrestling movement had a profound impact on me.  It was a chance to give back to the sport that gave so much to me.  And in 2010, when a job opportunity came around that would relocate Kat and I to Los Angeles, it was one of the hardest parts about leaving New York.  I was leaving behind friends and coaching relationships forged in the fire of the sport.  I felt, reservedly, like I was leaving wrestling again.

About eight months after arriving in LA, I was contacted by Andy Barth, a business man and former wrestler whose supported wrestling from the Youth to Olympic level across the country.  Andy was planning to launch a Beat the Streets program in Los Angeles, and was looking for ardent like-minded people to help bring the program to fruition.  I was in.

Today, three and a half years later, I feel honored to be part of such an outstanding organization and was blessed to have been there for it’s genesis in LA.  Who would have known that the lessons learned about the creative process in school would have fostered an appetite for photography and storytelling?  What’s more, who would have known that I’d be able to apply it to wrestling?


If you’d like to learn more about Beat the Streets Los Angeles and our mission visit our website.  And to see the full coverage with more photos of the Season Kickoff check out the article HERE.

BTSLA wrestlers warmup during the first tournament of the season.

BTSLA wrestlers warmup during the first tournament of the season.

Wrestlers from San Fernando and San Pedro hop through their warmup drills.

Wrestlers from San Fernando and San Pedro hop through their warmup drills.

BTSLA Board Member Tyler Baier gives a technique clinic to kickoff the Season Opener.

BTSLA Board Member Tyler Baier gives a technique clinic to kickoff the Season Opener.

Bright Star student Nathaniel Botello begins his 3rd Season with Beat the Streets LA.

Bright Star student Nathaniel Botello begins his 3rd Season with BTSLA.

Attack Bandz match between two rookie Beat the Streets LA wrestlers.

Attack Bandz match between two rookie BTSLA wrestlers.

Newest members of the San Pedro BTSLA program enjoy their first wrestling tournament.

Newest members of the San Pedro BTSLA program enjoy their first wrestling tournament.

 

Short Film ‘Move Your Feet’ wraps on production

Filming Day 1 Wrap with director Shawn Frederick, writer and producer Brian Guerrero and the cast of Beat the Streets LA wrestlers.

52 days after sitting down for the first pre-production meeting on the branded short for Beat the Streets Los Angeles (BTSLA) we wrapped filming yesterday.

The project Move Your Feet is a short about an adolescent girl, played by Beat the Streets LA youth wrestler Mercedes Rodriguez, whose life is transcended by the sport of wrestling.

As Creative Director for BTSLA, I had the honor of writing the screenplay for our non-profit org and produce the short.  The story is inspired by BTSLA’s mission to cultivate youth development in Los Angeles communities through quality wrestling programs.

The production was led by veteran director Shawn Frederick and his fantastic crew who consisted of Richard Wright (Director of Photography, Tyler Swain (Camera Operator), Dave Nagel (Camera Operator), Sean Lampon (Sound Recordist), Cal Bingham (Digitech/Script Supervisor), and Cole Bingham (PA/Grip).

The eight week whirlwind experience was for me both rewarding as much as it was a learning experience.  To witness so many creatives and communities come together for one purpose was inspiring.

Stay tuned for more details including advertisements and a release date which is slated for sometime around the holidays.

 

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