We have two main priorities here at DeSoto Caverns: to make sure every single guest has a positive experience and to make a lasting difference in our community, especially in local schools. This past year, we’ve developed a fun and exciting way to do both! Each quarter, we split our Team Members into two sub-teams. These teams encourage guests to review their park experience and at the end of the review, the guests name the team that served them best. The team with the most positive reviews at the end of the quarter wins and determines how DeSoto will use designated funds to make a difference in the local school or organization.
This quarter, we partnered with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB), which is the world’s most comprehensive education, rehabilitation and service program serving individuals of all ages who are deaf, blind, deaf-blind and multidisabled. With campuses all throughout the state of Alabama, the institution serves more than 22,500 infants, toddlers, children, adults, and seniors with hearing and vision loss throughout Alabama each year. In 2015, AT&T of Alabama donated $20,000 to the AIDB Foundation, which the institution used to purchase over 30 acres of land to launch the Joe Tom Armbrester Agriculture Center. This center will provide more hands-on gardening and agriculture opportunities to the students, which supports the vision to provide jobs to students with deaf and blind disabilities.
The winning team, the Carnelian Lions, was able to provide the materials needed to start a chicken coop, the first structure on the land. On Monday, July 24, our President, Chief Visionary Officer, and five Team Members from both teams had the amazing opportunity to not only hand-deliver the funds but to also take part in the construction of the chicken coop alongside students in the carpentry program. This was an exciting and eye-opening experience for these Team Members to be able to interact with the students. We were blown away with the ease with which they handled everyday tasks without sacrificing a bit of quality.
We are extremely honored to partner with AIDB. It's such a wonderful institute that creates so many opportunities for children and young adults to succeed despite disabilities and provide the tools to do so. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of and experience the beginning of this exciting addition to the institute.
AIDB showcases art from their art classes that both the deaf and blind students participate in. There were a lot of beautiful pieces, but as we toured the facility, this one, in particular, touched our hearts as it tied into the initiative we were providing. This bird was created by a blind art student named Kyia Long. These are the words she wanted to accompany the piece:
"I have always loved birds ever since the first time I could hear their songs as a little girl. Hearing the birds sing every morning soothed my spirit. This mama bird is waiting for her eggs to hatch. Enjoy!"