By Jo Ann Bachman
When the trustees and staff met to start planning RayDay™, one of the first questions asked was how to position this event and why were we doing it. For all of us who knew Ray Anderson, the answer was seemingly simple – to honor the man and carry on his legacy. An iconic leader of the sustainability movement, Ray was a Southern gentleman whose soft voice made a reverberating impression around the world, a man of intellect who challenged himself and others to think bigger and better. He was a grandfather and great-grandfather whose passion and perseverance was directed at the most important reason in all our lives: Tomorrow’s Child.
We wanted RayDay to be a reflection of Ray. He was a storyteller, and he told a story that still resonates today. He inspired with his vision and charmed with his Southern drawl; he connected people and organizations for a higher purpose; and, he always enjoyed the people he met during his travels. Education and continual learning were a core value for Ray. In order to honor this legacy, our goal was that RayDay should be educational, inspirational and fun!
As over 450 people experienced in a bucolic meadow at Serenbe, the first annual RayDay turned out to be an absolutely lovely day. As shown in the photos of the day, everyone enjoyed that afternoon of sunshine and camaraderie – in conversation under the big tent, listening to bluegrass music, watching the children playing old-fashioned games, and connecting with new friends or re-connecting with old.
There were lines for the hot air balloons all day long. People commented how much they enjoyed strolling along the education booths, hearing about the work 30 extraordinary groups of people and organizations are doing to make a difference for our Mother Earth. They are still inspired by the words and relevance of Ray Anderson. Booth participants came from as far away as California, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana and Washington, DC. The day concluded with a delicious barbeque dinner and personal and poignant comments from trustees Harriet Langford and Mary Anne Lanier and Foundation Director John Lanier.
Margo Flood, retired Executive Director for the Environmental Leadership Center at Warren Wilson College, traveled from Asheville, NC, to experience RayDay. After returning home, she wrote the following letter to Ray’s family. Margo’s letter expresses very eloquently the whole idea behind RayDay. It is a moving testimonial to the continued significance of Ray’s legacy. Thank you, Margo.
Ray meant the world to me, and to so many of us at Warren Wilson College. Each time he visited campus, naysayers’ lives were transformed and those of us working so hard to leverage change renewed our hope. In his final visit as commencement speaker, it was said later that his speech was the most riveting of any heard before. He moved us so.
I am so grateful that you've chosen to honor Ray in this way. Visiting the exhibition booths and talking to guests, we shared so many wonderful Ray stories. With those I did not know, we discovered connections that brought us closer and will enhance our work. This is not surprising — discovering the web that Ray wove. The fabric is strong, thanks to his work. Thank you for providing us an opportunity to console one another for his loss and to celebrate his life. Through this event, we have built an ever-stronger network to carry his mantle and make it our own.
Ray Day was extraordinary. I am so sorry I didn't meet you at Serenbe to tell you this personally but now, upon reflection, I have even better clarity about the impact. Please count me in the circle of those who feel so fortunate to have known Ray. My personal thanks to all of you for carrying forth the light.
Long-time Atlanta media writer and blogger Maria Saporta also gave her review of RayDay.
Some of the most heartening comments about RayDay we received came from our education booth participants who reiterated how much they enjoyed the whole experience, being in such good company with other exhibitors, as well as meeting such interested guests. Duane Schrag of The Land Institute in Salina, KS, wrote, “I found it a treat to be in the company of so many organizations and people concerned about sustainability. He added that he should have spent more time visiting the other booths. Asked how we could make the day better, we heard a resounding, “Make it an annual event!”