Monday, May 10, 2010

25 Years, 3 Generations, 1 DeMolay Experience

In 2010 Pennsylvania DeMolay will celebrate the 25th consecutive year of the Key Man Conference. This is a huge milestone, and marks this gathering as one of the longest running in DeMolay. This year we are taking some time to celebrate that effort, and reflect on years gone by.

For the new folks out there, the KeyMan Conference is the premier leadership conference hosted by Pennsylvania DeMolay. It has garnered international attention and participation, mostly thanks to its hands-on approach to training and leadership. DeMolays who attend are given a controlled environment to hone their leadership skills by participating in actual Chapter activities while at the Conference. Held in early August each year at Patton Campus, the Conference splits participants up into Chapters, which then operate just as a normal DeMolay Chapter would. Thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteer adult Advisors, the young men learn and grow, and then take those experiences back home to help their Chapters.

That is the program as it stands today, but it certainly didn't start out that way! Some people bemoan "the good old days" when the Conference consisted of a binder of papers and information that traveled with the attendees as they went from workshop to workshop. But we prefer the current "Reality" concept, developed by "Dad" Brent Richards in the early 2000's, and it remains the model for the program.

That's enough boring history for now. What I really want to talk about is the human side of this story! For 25 years the Key Man conference has been bringing together DeMolays and Advisors from all over America and Canada, enabling them to forge lasting friendships thanks to the shared experience. Recently, we created a Facebook Group called "PA DeMolay Key Man Conference Alumni" for those who have attended the Conference to look back at all the wonderful times they've had. We estimate that PA DeMolay has had over 2500 gradutes of the Key Man Conference, and that's not to mention the Advisors and volunteers who've attended as well. That's a huge amount of people affected by the program!

If you hang around PA DeMolay long enough you're certain to hear about "pivotal" events from the Conference. Things like the fabled "rededication," or the year the participants accidentally stumbled across a bees nest to ill effects. Or perhaps you've seen the pictures of "Dad" Allen Moyer in his knee-high socks. Maybe you remember running the early morning "Iron Man" challenges put forth by "Dad" Brian Harden. Who could forget the Amish Swami as portrayed by "Dad" Brent Richards with assistance from "Dad" Ray Gottschall. Speaking of Advisors dressing up in silly costumes, "Dad" Rick Freedman used to wow the crowds as El Sorro, and let us not forget the year he portrayed "Jerry Slinger" when he hosted a T.V. talk show where Jacques DeMolay got to face his accusers. We all have great Key Man memories to share, and that's part of the experience. Personally, I can vividly remember getting ritual help from "Dad" Tom Sellers of Virginia, who worked with me tirelessly on squaring corners and ritual presentation, and that's what the program is all about. Bringing people together to better their DeMolay experience.

So, what's your favorite Key Man memory? Why not share it over on the Facebook group?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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