These Are the Things That Made Us Smile This Week

Author: Convene Editors       


The operations team at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego created a heart while preparing the hotel for closing during the pandemic. “Our heart is with our colleagues, guests, hospitality community and all the healthcare providers working to heal us all,” said hotel manager John Yeadon. “We will emerge stronger than ever because we care for one another.” (Stuart Hartley photo)

The news has never been more overwhelming. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow exponentially, it can feel difficult to find any silver lining. However, there are individuals and organizations that have stepped up during these uncertain times and touched us with their efforts to make connections even while social distancing. While the Convene team has been working to update the events industry and interview the business events professionals who are trying to see their way through this period of massive disruption, our editors have uncovered opportunities to be optimistic. Here’s a look at some of the stories that made us smile this week.

Story Time

I no longer have young children at home, but I’ve been a working mom throughout my two daughters’ childhoods — so my heart goes out to parents who


Oliver Jeffers read This Moose Belongs to Me on Instagram, and when he read The Hueys in the New Jumper (right) he asked kids to wear their favorite sweaters.

are trying to work remotely and look after their children at the same time. I love that children’s book authors are hosting virtual live readings for kids. As The Optimist Daily pointed out, authors such as Oliver Jeffers, who has penned a number of children’s books including The Day the Crayons Quit and The Moose Belongs to Me, read to 267,000 Instagram followers — backed by alien spaceship sound effects. It’s a reminder that all the advancements in virtual technology aren’t just for adults to learn and network. Those tools can help carry a soothing voice to a young audience in need of reassurance, too.

Michelle Russell, editor in chief


One couple who had to cancel their wedding had a virtual wedding using “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” a Nintendo Switch life simulation game.

A Different Type of Virtual Event

Couples across the world are postponing their weddings to help contain COVID-19. But one engaged couple — Sharmin Asha and Nazmul Ahmed, who canceled their April nuptials — were able to create a unique virtual celebration nonetheless. The groom surprised the bride with a video game wedding in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” a Nintendo Switch life simulation game that allows gamers to invite up to seven real-life friends to visit their virtual island. Ahmed secretly invited friends as wedding guests, and created a beach wedding scene using the game’s customization tools before asking the bride to join him for the surprise. Though we can’t meet face-to-face at the moment, it’s nice to see human connection is unstoppable in the virtual world.

Casey Gale, associate editor


Chicago music venue The Hideout raised money to help out-of-work bartenders, sound engineers, and door security representatives.

A Big Difference for the Small Guys

The biggest names in the business world — airlines, hotels, and amusement parks — have made headlines in recent weeks, but there are many neighborhood community gathering spots and event spaces that are hurting, too. The need for social distancing has forced small music clubs to close their doors, too. These intimate venues — with capacities as low as 100 people — operate on business models that require customers to show up nearly every night of the year.

As the bartenders, sound engineers, and door security representatives have found themselves with no work and no tips, fans have been opening their wallets with donations to campaigns on GoFundMe. For example, The Hideout, my favorite bar and music venue in Chicago, quickly raised more than $25,000 in assistance. Similar campaigns have popped up across the country. The stages at these clubs may be empty, but fans are turning up the volume on the power of giving. — David McMillin, associate editor


The Sophy Hyde Park in Chicago plans let doctors, nurses and other staff members of the University of Chicago Medical Center use the hotel for free during the COVID-19 crisis. (Courtesy SOPHY Hyde Park)

Hotel Sweet Hotel

Images of — and stories about — exhausted health-care workers are among the most heartbreaking amid this crisis. So, when a headline popped into my Twitter feed about a bit of relief for those workers, I actually smiled. In Chicago, the Sophy Hyde Park planned to close to the public on March 27 and open — free of charge — to University of Chicago Medical Center staff battling the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. The boutique hotel is about a mile from the hospital, which is on the city’s South Side.

Sophy is not alone. In New York, the Four Seasons Hotel is doing the same. And Airbnb started a housing program in France that it expects to roll out for health-care workers globally. Ty Warner, founder and chairman of Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Four Seasons New York, said in a statement about the hotel’s decision, that “many of those [health-care workers] in New York City have to travel long distances to and from their homes after putting in 18-hour days.” While there’s of course no place like home, for now, a soft bed and a hot shower minutes away from work is a wonderful way to help care for those giving their all to care for all of us. — Cristi Kempf, executive editor


Barbara Palmer’s niece, Erin Buthman (left), and Emma Martin (right) are keeping their quarantine gardens growing.

A Quarantine Garden

What’s making me smile these days is read how people are reaching for new ways to connect with and help each other through this — everything from the volunteer tech entrepreneurs and scientists behind the nonprofit N95 Project, on a mission to find and distribute millions of face masks for the nation’s health care workers, to the neighbors who are filling their Little Libraries with canned goods and toilet paper to share.

Here at home, what’s making me smile is the “Aunt Barbara’s Quarantine BINGO,” card that my niece Erin made for me, which includes this square: “Draw one flower each day to make a Quarantine Garden.” A text chain filled with blooms now stretches from Austin to Brooklyn to Dallas to Chicago to San Francisco. — Barbara Palmer, deputy editor

What Events Professionals Need to Know About COVID-19

PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the outbreak and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared.

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