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CLAY 2018: Thunder Bay

Specialist Home Team Perspective: Mena Chiarizia

Mena Chiarizia is a member of this year’s Specialist Home Team. Specialists are youth between 15 and 19 who are an integral part of making the gathering happen. The Specialists have been at UPEI since Monday, working behind the scenes with the National Planning Committee. They’ve also spent time participating in team building, skill building, leadership roles, and scripture reflection. If you are interested in being a specialist in 2018, watch for the application form on www.claygathering.ca around October 2017.

When they’d announced in 2014 that this year’s gathering would be in PEI, I was stoked! Then I realized that the Island Province was literally on the other side of the country. So after a VERY long day of travel, including a 3am wake up call, my church group arrived in Charlottetown from Vancouver, pumped up at the prospect of enjoying both the island province, and CLAY 2016 itself. While they explored the Island, I headed to the University on Monday, ready to help get the gathering ready for Wednesday. After some team building exercises with the specialist home team, I was delegated to the production side of things and by early Wednesday, I was helping Peter, Grace and the whole production crew get the LGG area set up and ready to welcome almost 1000 people come Wednesday night and Thursday morning. And what a welcome it was.

Standing on the track above the gymnasium at the first Large Group Gathering of 2016, I got to experience the full effect of hundreds of youth running into the space to try and snatch a front row seat. The energy in the place just exploded and you could just tell how excited they were about the gathering finally being underway. Backstage, it was easy to see the youth who lined up in the mosh pit, moving, clapping and dancing along to the music of this year’s amazing band. Being behind the scenes also allowed me to hang out and work with the production team. From making sure “Rylo Ken” had his mask for the CLAY Wars segment to helping to make sure that our keynote speaker, Mark Ehlebrecht could safely get up onto the stage after jumping out of a wooden boat pulled along the floor by our drama troupe, it was great fun helping our amazing team keep the Gathering running smoothly. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the youth, some of whom had never been to a gathering before, made the early mornings and the running across campus in the rain so worth it!

That same night there was a massive thunder and lightning storm that forced everyone to abandon their searches for Pokémon and other outdoor late night spots and run indoors to escape the torrent of rain.   Many people sat around, both in their rooms and in the halls, chatting with people from their own groups as well as other groups from across the country. It was so great to see the friendships forming between all the youth. Their excitement and energy throughout the whole day was well worth the tiredness that came from working so hard behind the scenes.

  • Mena Chiarizia, Specialist Home Team