Since the past year has made it challenging to meet in person and take part in traditional group events, Roux applied creativity to our many corporate social responsibility (CSR) fundraising initiatives. A prime example is our Long Beach, California office’s fundraiser for Beats for Bella, a 501(c)3 non-profit that strives to create awareness for Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs). The organization contributes to CHD research, allowing for advancements in life-saving treatments and enriching the quality of life for children with Congenital Heart Defects.
To participate, employees were asked to reply to an email thread with photos of a new hobby they’ve picked up during quarantine, and a donation was given per each photo reply. This fundraising technique allowed the Long Beach office to catch a glimpse of what life is like for their peers outside the workplace, and Roux gained a sense of our staff’s interests that can later be applied to additional CSR and company events. See below for some of our favorite new hobbies, explained in the captions:
"During the ‘Great Pasta Shortage’ of 2020, I took it upon myself to make my own pasta. It was quite a challenge at first—I ended up having to scrap a few batches at the start, but I think I got it down towards the end." - Cameron Jones, Staff Engineer
"A second kitchen-adjacent hobby I took up was the restoration of old Japanese knives." - Cameron Jones, Staff Engineer
Austin Mok, Staff Engineer, hiking Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48.
Another photo from Austin's Mt. Whitney hike.
Austin also added surfing to his growing list of outdoor activities.
"Last July, I started brewing my own kombucha for the first time and I never looked back. I’ve made about 25 consecutive batches since and I am expecting a bountiful 26th harvest today." - Johanan Knight, Staff Engineer
"I’ve been spending a lot more time working in the garden." - Mark Nishibayashi, Project Geologist
"I have been playing golf on and off for about 25 years. With the pandemic taking place, I found golf again. I have enjoyed just being outside, in nature (sort of) and playing a game that takes a lot of skill and concentration." - Sean Owens, Senior Health and Safety Specialist
"I’ve ventured into the attic and dusted off my ’70’s Occidental assigned reading." - Tony Ward, Vice President/Principal Geologist
"My brother and I have been recreating tik tok recipes (one of my faves was vegan ramen with cauliflower katsu)." - Angela Truong, Staff Engineer
"We've taken up slacklining! Its hilariously challenging and fun." - April McGuire, Project Engineer
"Not sure if this counts as a hobby but we’ve been putting our sledgehammer and pickaxe to use, answering the age old question, 'do you think that is structural?'" - Peter Shimer, Project Geologist
Thomas Warfel, Staff Geologist, taking his cat for a "walk."
"For us, with the newest member of the family joining us early pandemic, we haven’t been nearly as active but we have created some new family habits. We spend a lot more time outdoors hiking and taking nature walks." - Darby Johnson, Director of Business Development
"We put up an accent wall and built a desk unit for my daughter to do her distance learning at home." - Matthew Nelson, Senior Engineer
Matthew also did some other painting and put up some cool vinyl brick wallpaper, with help from his son Charlie!
Jon Rohrer, Principal Hydrogeologist, rehabbed a dilapidated vegetable garden.
"I found relaxation in doing yoga in the park and on the beach." - Jaydeep Purandare, Principal Engineer/Office Manager
Nicole Svoboda, Staff Scientist, set up a fresh water aquarium in her home.
Nicole also enjoyed hiking in the local mountains.
Michelle Soisson, Business Development Manager, enjoyed taking in the beauty of California from the beaches to the desert.
"A couple buddies and I went in on a little sailboat together so we’ve kept ourselves plenty busy learning how to sail and doing lots of upkeep and little fixes." - Drew Williams, Project Geologist
"We have found ways to be outdoor as much as possible." - Mauricio Escobar, Principal Geologist
"I started gardening last year in late March amid the initial COVID craze. It has now been a whole year and I’ve had lots of yummy veggies to eat and share with friends." - Connor Moore, Staff Scientist
"I’ve gotten into some art projects, including re-upholstering our chairs, using the same fabric to up-cycle a dress (who wore it better?), dying fabrics, and painting rocks that I leave around the neighborhood during our walks." - Andrea Berlinghof, Project Engineer
"I spent a ton of time on the water, farming for Taro leaf to make lau lau, gem mining, playing in the snow with the doggies, and making a lot of healing foods to stay healthy." - Trisha Struble, Administrative Assistant
"Quarantine has included renewed interest in the local wildlife/pets. Highlights over the past year: raising butterflies (green monarch chrysalides under rock wall ledge), adopted a kitten who is now a cat, and had a tarantula hawk sighting." - Julie Harriman, Senior Engineer
David DeVries, Senior Hydrogeologist, like many others, began growing fresh greens in his garden.
While all could agree this fundraiser was for a great cause, Beats for Bella is especially meaningful to one of our employees. Matthew Nelson, Senior Engineer in our Long Beach office, has a son named Charlie who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a condition characterized by having only half a heart. Congenial Heart Defects affect 40,000 children every year and 1.4 million children and adults live with congenital heart defects today in the United States. However, only about 1,000 children in the United States are born each year with HLHS, which is fatal unless corrected by surgery.
Since birth, Charlie has had two open heart surgeries—the first when he was only four days old—and will have a third one next year. These three crucial surgeries manipulate the way the heart pumps, creating “a unique circulation by which a patient can live,” according to one of Charlie’s doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), Jay Pruetz, MD.
As an Engineer who solves complex issues daily, Charlie’s diagnosis left Matthew feeling a loss of control. Reflecting on Charlie’s first few months, Matthew recalled, “I wanted answers. I wanted certainty. I’d ask people, ‘What does the future look like?’ and nobody could tell me if he’d live until he is six or if he’d die next week. We just had to believe.”
With his unparalleled strength and resiliency, Charlie has inspired everyone around him, giving him the nickname “Charlie the Champion.” During the second phase of Charlie’s surgery, which he responded to positively, he received five different stem cell injections into his heart by a surgeon at CHLA, which is part of a clinical trial led by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Money raised by Beats for Bella supports the Mayo Clinic and funds studies like the stem cell study that Charlie is a part of. During this second heart surgery, Charlie was the fourth child at CHLA and the 16th in the country to receive his own stem cells.
Charlie’s days after his first surgery involved being closely monitored, weighed daily, and quarantining from his older siblings. However, because his second surgery had no complications, he was able to recover more quickly, leave home, and even spend time with his brother and sister—which is reportedly when he is happiest!
Alisa Nelson, Charlie’s mother and a Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit (NICCU) nurse at CHLA, shared that the family made a conscious choice to live in love instead of fear. “However long we get to have with him, we are happy,” she said. “He has so much energy, he’s walking everywhere, climbing on everything, talking more and more every day, and is just all around the sweetest, happiest, smartest little guy ever.”
After Roux’s contributions, as of last month, Beats for Bella reached their goal of raising $50,000 for HLHS and CHD research. For more information on Charlie’s journey, see his patient story on CHLA’s websiteand Matthew’s donation page on Beats for Bella.