This Week in Toastmasters: Snow


Wrap yourself in a warm blanket, huddle up next to the fire and sip a tall glass of too-rich hot chocolate, it’s …


I loved winter when I was a kid. I hate it now because I’m old and one of the signs you’re getting old is when cold weather turns you into a troll, but I loved winter when I was a kid. It meant hot chocolate, late night movies on the weekends (eating buckets of popcorn, warming our feet under the radiator next to the tv in the living room), snow days off school, and sledding down the many hills in our neighborhood. I grew up in Greenhills, a suburb of Cincinnati, and you KNOW we did a lot of sledding because we had the word “hills” right there in the name.

The best place to go sledding in Greenhills was behind the high school. There was a monstrous hill just behind the library that went down for what seemed like several stories at least, flattening out across the soccer field before ending suddenly at a steep drop off into the woods. All the kids showed up at the first hint of snow, waiting for just enough coverage to make it down the without pulling up clumps of sod and rolling.

By mid-January the hill had a nice, protective armor of ice and snow, shined to a perfect smoothness by the relentless barrage of the neighborhood kids and their many trips down. The goal was to attack the hill with enough speed to send you flying across the soccer field and off the edge of the field, into the woods. We had no idea what would happen if we actually accomplished this, but everyone there knew it would be “totally cool” if we did.

One year, we got a huge snowstorm, one of those blizzards that dumps several feet worth of snow in just a few hours. Everyone in the neighborhood gathered at the high school the following morning to take advantage of this gift. Rather that slide down the hill like normal, we brought shovels and, instead, spent three days building a snow track with high edges leading straight down the hill and across the field. It was like a rudimentary luge ramp, only perfectly straight and made entirely out of snow. With this, we said, we couldn’t accidentally dart sideways. With this, we said, we can make it all the way to the woods.

Once we had it built, Matt Kemper from Cromwell road got the bright idea to smooth it out with our sleds and douse the whole course with water just before nightfall.

The next morning, Adam Hester, a tall third grader from Damon Road, stood atop the hill, waiting for the right moment. He set his bright orange sled at the top of the ramp, stood back about ten yards, and took a running start. He leapt through the air and hit the sled, which took off like a bullet, leaving a cloud of slow and ice in his wake. It was a little like watching the Roadrunner speeding away from Wile E. Coyote. The only difference was this was real life, and a few short seconds into Adam’s trip, we all knew this would end badly.

He flew across the soccer field, hurtling toward the edge of the field leading to the drop-off into the woods without slowing down “It was the water that did the trick,” Matt Kemper said later, with a mixture of pride and horror. “I thought of that!”

Adam hit the drop-off at full speed, rose into the air a few feet like the General Lee in so many episodes of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” then dropped into the woods and out of sight. We heard a few crashes, then a brief silence followed by a long and wail that signaled to everyone Adam had landed somewhere below, likely in an uncomfortable position.

It took us a good hour to get Adam back up the hill. Several kids had gone to get his parents by then and an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter to take him to the hospital. Adam’s parents gave us stern looks, admonishments to “be more careful for God’s sake,” lectures that we should “act like men, not stupid little boys,” and promises that they would “call all your parents just as soon as we get home!”

Then they got in their car, leaving the rest of us in silence to ponder what we had done. In the coming weeks, we would learn that Adam had broken his right arm, his left leg, his collarbone, and two bones in his left foot. He had suffered a concussion and a laceration across his back so deep they wondered about the kind of scar it would leave. He was on crutches for several months and was unable to play baseball the following spring (which was a shame, because he could hit a ton). Later, we would learn an important lesson about the need to plan carefully and always pay attention to the dangers that lay waiting for us just over the next ridge.

But all of that was later. That day, standing in the snow by ourselves, we did the only thing you can expect of young boys with a pile of snow, an abundance of time, and several new sleds.

“That was cool,” we said, “I’m next!” And we ran the slopes again.


The last few weeks in Toastmasters were dedicated to the Evaluation Contest. Last week, Lameka Howard delivered an inspirational speech about living your vision, and several of our Evaluation contestants got the chance to practice in a mock evaluation (is it “mock” or “mach” or something else? I don’t know).

This week we held the actual contest with Les Davis from SOAR as our Target Speaker. Les shared humorous story about his fall … from a ladder, and the mistakes he made that led to this. It was a lot of fun (thanks, Les!). We had four contestants in our evaluation competition: Marion Nicolet, Jonathan Frisbey, Laura McCaffrey and Brian Dietz. Laura McCaffrey finished in first and Brian Dietz finished in second. They will represent our club at the area contest on February 16.

Our next competition is the International Speech contest on January 31. Derek Downes is in charge of that one, and he needs some help from all of you. So if you want to be a part of that contest as a competitor, a judge, a timer, or something else, let Derek know  as soon as you can.


Next week, we return to regularly scheduled programming with a “normal” meeting. We still need a Toastmaster for next week, along with pretty much any role you can think of. So GO SIGN UP FOR SOMETHING.


Podium Pros, the club that meets at McGraw-Hill just across Polaris Parkway, is holding a Speech-A-Thon event next Thursday evening with two meetings. The first one starts at 4:30. The second starts around 5:30. They’re looking to get lots of people involved. If you’ve got a speech you’ve been dying to give, this might be a good opportunity for you. Let me know and I’ll get your name on the list.

(Before you ask…yes, Dannae, they checked with Eileen. Everything is good to go).

Podium Pros is my wife’s club. They’re probably going to have her evaluate my speech. I will refrain from making judgments about what will happen when this evaluation takes place. I’ll just say three things: 1) my wife is 8.5 months pregnant 2) I am WOEFULLY behind on at-home projects 3) she has an open forum to criticize me … in public.

The opportunity to witness carnage on this level doesn’t come along too often, so take advantage.


You might have noticed the officer list on the side of our agendas changed recently. Earlier this year, we welcome Brian Dietz and Sonja Thornbloom to our officer ranks. Brian is working with Crystal Dong in the office of VP-Public Relations, and Sonja will work with Niranjandas Mettu in the Secretary role.

We’re looking to double up on each officer role (including mine!) so we can have a smooth transition of the leadership team moving into the next Toastmasters year (which will happen in June). If you’re interested in becoming an officer, even if you just want to check it out, let me know.


  • January 31: International Speech Competition (11:30 – 12:30 in 1P2359)
  • Jan/Feb: Officer Training. This training is open to everyone, not just officers. (see District Calendar for dates/locations)
  • February 16: Area Evaluation and International Speech Contest (come support our contest winners. Throw tomatoes at everyone else … just kidding …maybe)
  • March 1: Dues are due (give Liz $42)
  • March 9: 2001 World Champion of Speaking, Darren LaCroix will be in town to give a seminar on leadership and communication. This will take place at Safe Auto in Easton from 5:30 – 9:30. Darren is funny. He’s also bald. That makes him my hero. Cost is $10. RSVP to . Space is limited.
  • March 13: Polaris Toastmasters Open House in the South Bistro. We need help planning and executing this event. Contact Shirley McPherson to help. Get credit towards your CL!
  • March 16: Division Evaluation and International Speech Contest. Dates/Times to follow
  • April 19-21: District 40 Spring Conference at The Blackwell on OSU’s campus. The conference will feature the District finals for the Evaluation and International Speech contest, educational sessions for new and seasoned Toastmasters, and a keynote address from 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking, Ryan Avery. Different package options will be available.

That seems like enough for now. Have a great rest of the week, everyone. Try not to break anything.

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