Running For Charity

Carolyn's Story

If you had asked me five years ago, “Carolyn, where do you see yourself in five years?” I can pretty much guarantee that “in sales or hospitality” would not have been my answer.  And while I’ve always enjoyed running, I can’t say for certain that a full marathon would have been my goal either.  Funny how our lives can twist and turn in some of the most unexpected, yet pleasantly surprising, ways.

At Washington University in St. Louis, I was a Sociology major and Political Science minor, with pre-law aspirations.  But before committing to another 3 years of school I thought I should have one last “hurrah”.  Most of my friends celebrated by back-packing through Europe, but I took an alternative route, one that stretched about 5,000 miles.  My friend Marilyn and I loaded in to a 1990 Chevy Suburban and hit the open American road.

We knew that places like Europe, rich in history and culture, would always interest us.  But with plans for furthering our educations and careers, we might never venture to places like rural Idaho or Utah, to name just two.  We wanted to see our own country, and I wanted to know more about where I was from before focusing on where I was going next.  I quickly learned that the United States has an astounding natural history, found within many National Parks.  I was amazed to find so many beautiful places, each offering a different historical lesson and present enjoyment right in our own “backyard”.

Taking in the exquisite scene while hiking up looming mountains, sky diving over clay canyons, or just admiring the greenery, I thought a lot about life.  What it is about the outdoors that makes us re-connect with ourselves?  I remember the exact location in Yellowstone National Park just outside of Jackson Hole where I decided to halt my plans for law school.  I wasn’t ready to go back to school when there was so much to see and do in our country, let alone the rest of the world.  I thought about a career that would allow me to travel, perhaps.

With blank law school applications stacked in the bed of the Suburban, we continued on to Los Angeles, where I would re-design my future.  I don’t know any parent that looks forward to their child telling them she no longer has set plans or a career path.  Wanting to have something to say, or some kind of income to report, I began waitressing at a hotel.  I was an awful waitress, trust me when I tell you I am much better suited for the sales side of hospitality.  But I fell in love with the hotel environment.  I thrived in the energy and the enthusiasm of the atmosphere.  I enjoyed interacting with people from all over the world.  I liked hearing different languages and learning about different cultures.  I felt the hotel was an extension of me and I a part of it.  I accepted my first job with a luxury hotel company in New York City.  And that, my friends, is how my life in hospitality began.

Caneel Bay

As we build our careers, it’s easy to become preoccupied, to forget about the things that once were so important to us.  A few career stops and some great mentors later, last December I took on the Sales Manager position with Caneel Bay, a Rosewood Resort, on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John.  I made my first trip to the resort in January, and I challenge anyone who visits there not to love it.  Located within the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, Caneel Bay sits on seven of the most amazing Caribbean beaches.  The 170-acre property is lush with flowing foliage, natural wildlife, and unbelievably clear water teeming with tropical fish.  I find the resort and the park awe-inspiring, and people tell me that I literally “glow” with love for the place.  (And that’s glow as in luminosity, not the amazing tan I get visiting the island.)  Caneel Bay is a place where people “disconnect” from their busy lives and “reconnect” with themselves or the loved ones they travel with, and remember those other things aside from work that are equally important.

Initially founded by Laurance Rockefeller, the land for Caneel Bay was actually purchased through the Jackson Hole Preserve Corporation, a non-profit conservation and educational organization also founded by the Rockefeller family.  So here I am, a fervent sales person for Caneel Bay and the U.S.V.I., enamored with my career in hospitality, neither of which I would have if it were not for my trip across the country and that moment of reflection just outside of Jackson Hole.  Coincidence?  No.  I think it’s a sign that this is where I was meant to be.

Recently I visited a travel agency in Los Angeles, and amid a conversational sales pitch an agent said to me, “Oh how interesting.  I didn’t know Caneel Bay was in a National Park.  I’ve actually never been to any of the U.S. National Parks.  I always go on vacation out of the country . . . to places like Europe.”  At a window overlooking the city where I found my first hotel job, I froze when I heard her words.  I knew at that moment I had to find a way to share my excitement for the resort, the park, and the destination with everyone—friends, family, colleagues, and anyone else interested in supporting a piece of our own national beauty.

Putting It All Together

Already registered to run the New York City marathon on November 1, I decided to formally link my personal and professional passions by running to raise money for the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park.  I will be running on behalf of Caneel Bay, decked out in self-made Caneel attire.  I am asking for monetary donations to benefit the U.S.V.I. National Park through the non-profit organization Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, responsible for the preservation and protection of the natural and cultural resources.  As a philanthropic partner, Caneel Bay resort will match 50 cents to every dollar donated for the first $1,000.00.  Of course, when it comes to the actual goal, the sky is the limit! 

Timing and participation is crucial.  In addition to running on the weekend, I train with 5:00 am weights at whatever hotel gym while “on the road” promoting the destination.  In September I completed 13 flights among 11 cities using the Jet Blue “All You Can Fly” pass.  The next four weeks promise to be just as busy, but I am motivated to know that my run supports a cause vital to the National Park.  Over 60% of support for Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park comes from the generous donations of individuals, like you! 

Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park:

Money raised by the Friends supports environmental education, natural resource protection, cultural preservation and scientific research. The Friends also acts as an advocate for our National Park, particularly on issues that threaten its precious natural or cultural resources.

Some of the funds will go to support events and like The Earth Day Environmental Fair for kids, which offers a fun way to create environmental awareness among young children with story-telling, interesting demonstrations of alternative energies, landscaping with native plants, mock archeology digs, and much more.  Also for children, eco-camps and SKIP (School Kids in the Park) familiarize V.I. students with their National Park through hands-on learning and site visits.  There are three weeks of Coastweeks, a period when community members rally together to remove debris from beaches and coastal shores to protect marine species and habitats.  The Friends maintain and preserve park trails, the moorings, and coral reefs and offer scholarships and internships.  Your donations are greatly appreciated by Friends volunteers and all of the park’s visitors and students.  Not to mention those of us who could use a place to “disconnect” from work and “reconnect” with nature, friends, family, and most importantly, ourselves. 

On behalf of the Caneel Bay resort and Friends of the National Park, thank you for your support.  I look forward to an exciting New York City marathon on November 1! 
Helpful Links:

Caneel Bay

Caneel Bay Facebook Page

Rosewood Properties

USVI National Park

National Park Service

New York City Marathon