The Town of Dedham held a reception Tuesday for the people and companies who sponsored nearly 40 Dedham representatives to attend the All-America City Award competition in Kansas City, Mo., last month.
Dedham made it as one of the 23 finalists in a competition with more than 400 applicants thanks to the narrative penned by Nancy Baker, assistant town administrator, and Karen O’Connell, the town’s economic development director.
Sponsors raised $50,350, said Town Administrator William Keegan. While there, the Dedham delegates presented to an audience on the town’s charity, volunteerism, green community acts and downtown revitalization.
“It was a great experience,” Keegan said, adding he enjoyed meeting people who look to improve the communities that they live in.
He said Dedham does not face many of the challenges that some of the larger communities they competed against faced, and he was both in awe of those communities and grateful for what Dedham has.
“I never thought we would get selected as finalists,” he said.
Rob Blaney, director of the Dedham Youth Commission, drove in a van with five Dedham teens to Kansas City.
“It was awesome,” said Blaney. “It was great to involve the teenagers,”
Blaney also uploaded a seven-part series of videos to Youtube.com that narrates the Youth Commission’s drive and their experiences at the event.
They stopped in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kansas, where they helped at a homeless shelter, a food pantry and a retirement community.
Erin Pike, a Dedham High School junior that went on the road trip, said, “We made life-long friends,” and added that they didn’t know each other well before the trip.
Giovanna Guzman, a recent Dedham High graduate, said her best memory was a party they threw at a retirement community in Pennsylvania, where they dance and sung with 40 wheelchair-bound residents.
“You can still tell they’re really happy,” Guzman said. “We have the power to enlighten people.”
Despite the good works by the Dedham Youth Commission and the productive conversations happening in Kansas City, delegates said they were disappointed that the event, organized by the National Civic League, didn’t receive national media attention.
“You usually hear bad news. This is all about good news. These are just regular people doing this,” Linda Hurley said.
But, officials said they were able to take lessons back home, even if the award didn’t come with them.
“This was one of the most exciting and energetic positive events I’ve ever been to,” selectman Jim MacDonald said. “There was not one negative thing said. [… It] was what is good about America.”