Our display at UNH got off to an interesting start. We pulled onto campus and met a large group of volunteers that waved as our truck pulled around the corner of the parking lot. After we pulled up and hopped out we briefly met the volunteers and began to plan the layout of the display. Within the hour, and thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, we had the display set up and ready to go. The local news station was filming a segment about the backpacks when we faced a bit of an unexpected change of plans: the wind. It had been gusty during the set up, but we’re used to a bit of wind. As the hour passed, however, the wind grew and grew until we had to make the decision to relocate the display to its indoor option. Normally this would have delayed the event longer than we’d like, but this is also where the power of the community at UNH really shined bright.
Within minutes of sharing the news that we’d have to pack up and move all 1,100 backpacks that had just been set up, the local chapter and volunteers were already loading the bags and discussing logistics of how to keep the display going as seamlessly as possible even with the move. Every time we turned around there was a new un-scheduled (and greatly appreciated) new volunteer from both the counseling center and other students that saw we needed an extra hand. Within just minutes everyone had the bags re-packed, piled, and ready to move.
Instead of waiting for the extra vehicles to move the bags, several volunteers opted to carry the story bags by hand across campus so we could get the display running again immediately. On a return trip I asked if the distance was okay to be carrying such heavy bags. They replied “It’s tough, but this is our big day” as they grabbed more bags and headed towards the Alumni Lounge, where the display was now being set up.
If you blinked you’d have missed the transition. Within no time the display was back up and running at its new (and windless) indoor location. Students and faculty began streaming in and the conversations and questions began flowing. Watching the entire process and seeing how much the students and faculty came together to help each-other after an unexpected situation really exemplified the power of community and of a supportive network. Even the visitors that didn’t know of Send Silence Packing before the event often came in groups or brought groups back with them.
The chapter had an extra event that we hadn’t seen on any stops yet. Anyone who visited the display could decorate a clay pot with colorful paints and then take home a flower in it. This was hugely popular during the day and really allowed visitors to express themselves creatively—a valuable tool for your mental health. We’re excited to know that as all of these visitors nurture their new plants, they’ll have a visible reminder of everything that was shared and learned this day.