Marymount of Santa Barbara's Grandparents Day event is a beloved tradition that takes place a few days before Thanksgiving every year. The focus of this year’s event was the importance of gratitude and of giving back to one’s community. It also highlighted the importance of recognizing what all of us as human beings — regardless of background — have in common.
This year's Grandparents Day was particularly well attended, poignant and packed with activity. Representatives from different religions — Rabbi Suzy Stone from Congregation B'nai B'rith, Father Charles Talley from St. Barbara Parish, Old Mission, and Sister Pravrajika Bhavaprana from the Vedanta Temple of Montecito — gave Thanksgiving blessings and talked about the importance of remembering those in need in our community.
The role that grandparents play in children's lives and gratitude for the gift of a strong educational foundation proved a moving theme when Grandparents Day leaders Ed and Sue Birch, who have had grandchildren at Marymount for the past 14 years, addressed the gathered Marymount community.
The theme of gratitude was also articulately and movingly discussed by this year's Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and Marymount lifer, Ryan Emmons.
Emmons spent nine years at Marymount before graduating in 2004. In his talk, Emmons thanked Marymount for his ability to follow his dreams and for kindling his entrepreneurial spirit. He thanked several of his teachers for inspiring him at a young age. Several of these teachers were in the audience and still teach at the school.
He also discussed his goal of having his work benefit others. This dual sense of purpose showed early in Emmons when he designed a board game called Santa Barbaraopoly along with several of his high school classmates at Laguna Blanca. The game raised close to $20,000 for Hurricane Katrina victims, and Emmons received a United Way Community Hero Award for the project.
Emmons went on to attend USC’s Marshall School of Business as a Rath Scholar. While there, his curiosity was sparked on the subject of business and complexities of water. Emmons’ curiosity further moved him to embark on a three-year feasibility analysis and concept development at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
After graduating early from USC, Emmons and co-founder Matt Meyer started working full-time on a concept that was to become the Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water company. Today, Emmons and Meyer are the youngest executives in the history of the lucrative bottled water industry, and seem to have found a meaningful niche.
They have found a niche in several ways. Not only is the company based on a healthy, sustainable and ethical platform using Hawaii’s natural filtration system to produce one of the most alkaline and electrolyte rich waters in the world, but Waiakea was one of the first bottled waters to be certified CarbonNeutral for a combination of eco-initiatives, including use of 100 percent RPET bottles. Its participation in regional reforestation projects and its sustainable sourcing through the Kea’au aquifer that has a discharge of 1.4 billion gallons/day.
Also important for Emmons was figuring out how this entrepreneurial effort would benefit others. Waiakea accomplishes this thorough a strategic partnership with Pump Aid that ensures that for every liter of Waiakea purchased, Waiakea donates 650 liters of clean water to those in need in Africa and other locations around the world. At last count, Waiakea has donated more than 125 million liters of water.
In operation for 17 months, Waiakea is still a young company, but it is already distributed in seven states and is expecting national distribution. The company’s mission — to provide healthy, sustainable, delicious Hawaiian volcanic water with as little impact as possible, while contributing to and promoting clean water access to people in need throughout the world — is one that Marymount celebrated and applauded at the pre-Thanksgiving event.
Marymount’s Grandparents Day and Emmons’ talk were an inspirational reminders of the importance of gratitude, of giving back to one’s community and of the importance of recognizing what all of us as humans have in common. People left the event reminded that something as simple as clean drinking water is a gift, and inspired by the idea that creativity, ingenuity and gratitude can be channeled into accomplishing things that will make the world a better place.
If you are interested in learning more about Marymount or scheduling a tour, please contact the Admission Office at email@example.com or 805.569.1811 x 131.
— Molly Seguel is the director of admission for Marymount of Santa Barbara.