What is a “Monkey Jam?”
Q: What is a “Monkey Jam?”
A: Read this blog to find out… then come volunteer at our next event!
By: Greg Harrell-Edge, CoachArt Development Director
Setting the scene: When I joined the CoachArt team as the Development Director last month, I could not wait to start volunteering at our program events. Arts! Athletics! Young people! Overcoming obstacles! I knew it would be an amazing thing to experience.
But I had no idea, fast-forwarding 6 weeks later, that I would find myself surrounded by SurveyMonkey volunteers and CoachArt students, helping to run basketball drills across four stations and coaching in a scrimmage against a team coached by SurveyMonkey’s esteemed President and CTO, Selina Tobaccowala….
How it started: On a Saturday morning after my first week at CoachArt, I attended the Volunteer Training session led by my new co-worker Sarah Park, which was equal parts hilarious and educational. She taught us the basics of interacting with CoachArt students and told us about the incredible impact these programs can have on students who have to spend a lot of their days listening to people focus on what they can’t do anymore, rather than what they can do.
Later that day, I attended a CoachArt basketball club and a few weeks after that, I went to our All-Star Games and saw our young people showing off their skills at volleyball, basketball and soccer (all in one day). So when SurveyMonkey approached us about organizing a volunteer event to kick off their week of service, my co-workers asked if I would help plan and run an afternoon of basketball (I think mostly because I’m really tall).
The answer to the trivia question: Our Program Director in the Bay Area, Molly Dirr suggested the name Monkey Jam for the event based on SurveyMonkey’s nickname for all their employees. When the day came, our CoachArt team met up with 20 students and 10 Monkeys at DeFremery Park in Oakland.
We broke into four teams and took shifts at four different stations:
- the Becky Hammon Ball Handling Station (named after the first-ever female NBA coach and long-time WNBA legend)
- the Larry Nance Jr. Defense Station (named after the Lakers rookie who has overcome Crohn’s Disease to make the NBA)
- the Steph Curry Shooting Station (named after the NBA MVP who plays his games right up the street)
- the Joe Chambers Passing Station (named after the U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Basketball National team member who hails from nearby Davis, CA)
After participating in all four stations with their teammates, the Monkey/Student combination teams faced off in a pair of scrimmages, which is where I found myself with the unfortunate task of matching wits the the brilliant Mrs. Tobaccowala. Needlessly to say, I was out of my league.
A shout-out: Another reason I was excited to be there was that I knew what an amazing partner SurveyMonkey has been to CoachArt. They have sponsored previous events, and they even have a program where anyone can take brief surveys and choose a charity that SurveyMonkey will donate to in response. (I’m a little biased, but I have a recommendation for which charity to choose, if you are interested in the program). Back in April, CoachArt honored Selina at our Children’s Benefit. Since Dave Goldberg’s passing, our partnership has taken on an even more poignant dimension.
So it was no surprise when the Monkeys turned out to be such a fun, funny, enthusiastic group to work with. Our CoachArt students loved playing defense and discussing Steph Curry’s shooting form. Monkey coaches were always waiting with a high-five after a made basket or a show of good teamwork or sportsmanship. After the games finished, we all sat at the picnic tables and closed the day with a little pizza party.
Where you come in: The CoachArt programs have been even more amazing than I had hoped. We use the word “transformative” a lot here; to talk about the impact that our programs have on our students and as a guidepost for deciding the type of programs we want to offer. But from what I can tell, it’s a word that also applies to the volunteers who participate as well, maybe even more so. One of the amazing things about volunteering is how often that happens with so many different opportunities to give back. But now I’ve seen that’s no accident — and how hard our program team works to make sure volunteering at CoachArt is transformative for everyone who participates.
If you’d like to check out the upcoming volunteer opportunities or sign up for the next hilarious and educational Volunteer Training session, contact either —