Building a Solid Foundation... in the Sand

TSYS team members give back and build teams through sand sculpting

Nebraska Children's Home Society's Sand in the City® event might look like child's play rather than serious work, but the 32-member TSYS® Omaha team found that building sand sculptures is no easy task. There's a lot more to it than you might think, according to Mitch Smith, TSYS Omaha team member.

"Even before I learned about the organization, I got involved because who doesn't want to build a sand castle?" Mitch said. "It was a fun way to spend time with the team and make a difference in our community."

The unique event benefits NCHS, which continues to be the only agency that ─ for more than 120 years ─ has never charged any fees for adoption services.

"It's based on having a 'Pay it Forward' philosophy," said Kathleen Al-Marhoon, Marketing and Public Relations manager, NCHS. "Our client is the child, who can't pay for services, so events like this make it possible for us to continue providing the services we do."

"Sand 101" was required coursework for new sand enthusiasts, as well as veterans like Mitch, who also participated last year. Training sessions provided an overview of the event, explained how sand works, and even allowed team members to get their hands in the sand and play a little.

Jessica Caniglia, TSYS Omaha team member and event volunteer, has lived in Omaha her whole life and has strong ties to the community. "We don't have sand here. We don't have beaches in Omaha, so it's a fun way to raise awareness and do something different," she said.

Although this was her first year participating, she's hooked. "We're already planning for next year," she said. "There were some really talented and creative people on our team. I loved watching us all come together and do something like this. The teamwork was just amazing. Seeing that all come together ─ that was my favorite part."

From the months of preparation prior to the event, to the practice build, and actual three-day sand building and display event ─ which drew more than 23,000 visitors in 2014 ─ Sand in the City provided more team building and business-related lessons than team members anticipated.

"We learned a whole lot about just how important it is to work together," said Mitch. "Whether we're working toward a business goal or working to support a community agency, if we don't team up, we can't do things effectively."

Nineteen teams competed in the 2014 event and the TSYS team placed third with their sculpture theme of "Mother Goose on the Loose." They received second place honors in the 2013 event and have first place in their sights for next year.

"The TSYS team that participated had such great energy and such great teamwork among them," Kathleen said. "Obviously they placed and did great, but you really want to see them having a great time and show that teamwork. They recognized that this is more than a day off. "


Giving back by the truckload

Bringing the beach to downtown Omaha is no small task, even for an event that has been around for 11 years. Local sand and gravel company partners trucked in 400 tons of sand, and the TSYS team used 15 tons alone. After the three-day event ended, they donated the sand to the city of Carter Lake, Iowa, to help stop beach erosion.

"Whether we're working toward a business goal or working to support a community agency, if we don't team up, we can't do things effectively." Mitch Smith

"It's a very green event," Kathleen explained. "All of that promotes so much goodwill for our whole community and it's the kids who are benefitting."

More than 200 volunteers worked the three-day event that raised in excess of $100,000 for the agency.

"Events like this ─ and participation from companies like TSYS ─ are critical for us being able to serve and provide our mission," Kathleen said. "TSYS is a great corporate citizen and we are so grateful."

People-Centered Payments® isn't just a catchphrase at TSYS. So when TSYS finds ways to merge their dual purposes of encouraging and growing their teams and making a real difference in a community where they operate, they don't hesitate to dive in.

"This is a way for us to show how we're committed to the community," Mitch said. "I think this shows that TSYS is committed to people, as well as to our business."

NCHS' Sand in the City Quick Facts

  • NCHS' Sand in the City has been going on for 11 years
  • TSYS has been involved for 3 years
  • 32 team members participated
  • 400 total tons of sand
  • 15 tons of sand - TSYS team
  • 23,000 visitors in 2014
  • 19 teams total (TSYS came in third)
  • 200 volunteers over 3-day event
  • Raised more than $100,000