Celebrating the Craft a Success!

Cameras roll on the set of the first-ever Scottish Rite Internet broadcast, Celebrating the Craft.

By Allison Godfrey, Development Office

Photo: Cameras roll on the set of the first-ever Scottish Rite Internet broadcast, Celebrating the Craft. (Photography: Arthur W. Pierson, 32°, Pierson Photography, Falls Church, Va.)

After months of preparation and hype, the first ever “Celebration of the Craft” web event at last premiered on Saturday, May 19. The six hour broadcast hosted by Ill. Norm Crosby, 33° Grand Cross, not only successfully supported the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign and Valley 501(c)(3) organizations, but also allowed for an opportunity to celebrate the Scottish Rite and Freemasonry. Viewers laughed, learned, and generously pledged their support throughout the evening. We were amazed by the contributions and participation that came in from all across the Southern Jurisdiction. The phones never stopped ringing! More than forty Orients and Valleys held affairs surrounding the web event, even reaching as far as the Panama Canal Scottish Rite Bodies. We also grabbed the attention of brothers in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction with WBro Moises I. Gomez, 32°, Atlas Pythagoras Lodge No. 10, Westfield, N.J., driving down to attend the show.

Our gratitude for the overwhelming enthusiasm of our members cannot be put into words. We can proudly say that we managed to surpass $400,000 in our fundraising efforts!

In addition to the tremendous involvement of our members, there was palpable hard work from the House of the Temple staff, the incredible Carlin Company who produced the web event, and the 150+ volunteers including local KSAs. Positive energy and excitement flowed through the building from the start of set up on Friday to the end of the web event early Sunday morning. The commitment of everyone to this monumental and innovative show has been greatly appreciated.

SGIG Leonard Proden, 33°, of D.C. kicked off the support with the first pledge of the evening. After Ill. Proden’s “opening bid,” the pledges and challenge gifts started coming in. The show was also improved with the valued assistance and appearances of SGIGs James Cole, 33°, of Virginia and Jack Yost, 33°, of West Virginia. James Cole, his wife Mary Ann, Jack Yost, and his wife Kris stayed throughout the entire event and helped out whenever they could. Some of you may have even had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. or Mrs. Yost when they took their turns at the phones. A special thank you also goes out to one of our guests, Bro. William “Rusty” Garrett, KCCH, chief weather anchor of KWTX-TV since 1987 and a member of the Valley of Waco, Texas, for his devotion to the web event. In addition to making an appearance during the show alongside Norm Crosby, Garrett put his anchor skills to work by leading interviews at our outdoor street party held for the event behind the House of the Temple. All of our special guests went above and beyond to ensure the success of the “Celebration of the Craft.”

Bro. Norm Crosby led the web event from 6:00 p.m. to midnight and did not fail to remind us why we were all “Celebrating the Craft.” Crosby stressed the significance of the fraternity and the importance of preserving its ideals of brotherly love, fellowship, compassion, tolerance, truth, and charity. His humor and good heart were infectious and truly pulled the show together.

Ill. Crosby introduced the House of the Temple staff as they shared their talents with the viewing audiences. SGC Ronald A. Seale, 33°, made a handful of appearances and encouraged support. Managing Editor of The Scottish Rite Journal, S. Brent Morris, 33°, Grand Cross, performed a variety of card tricks while Masonic scholar Art de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Cross, shared with audiences the original copy of Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma. Grand Executive Director of the Supreme Council, Admiral Sizemore, 33° Grand Cross even graced viewers with a song! Inspirational videos regarding our philanthropic efforts (like the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign, RiteCare®, scholarships, and disaster relief), fraternal history, and membership were also shown featuring many Scottish Rite Freemasons.

In addition to Admiral Sizemore’s melody, the band Rendezvous played their renditions of popular songs such as “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, and “September” by Earth Wind and Fire. Throughout the evening various videos prepared for the web event were shown featuring Masonic celebrities like Ill. Ernest Borgnine, 33°, Grand Cross, and Bro. Brad Paisley, 32°. Author Dan Brown also talked about the importance of the House of the Temple as a landmark and symbol to Freemasonry.

Every single donation made during the event was a great source of pride for the Scottish Rite. We would especially like to thank the Miller Trust for their $100,000 donation and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children for their $100,000 donation. We are truly grateful for their great generosity.

Gifts continue to pour in and pledges are still being made. The opportunity to make new gifts is available to those who would like to support our cause. Our toll-free number used during the event (1-855-289-4200) is still active and we would love to hear from you. Additionally, you can still text HOT (for House Of the Temple) to 50555 and make an immediate ten dollar donation or you can make donations online at www.scottishrite.org or www.causes.com (search for “Scottish Rite Web Event”). The full show will be available online (www.scottishrite.org) until August 19 for those who did not have the chance to view it live or for those who did not get enough of the celebration the first time around.

Again, thank you to everyone who took part in this event. The teamwork, passion, and positivity that surrounded the “Celebration of the Craft” is truly amazing. This event really showed what this organization is all about and what we can do when working toward a common goal.

We look forward to making this an annual event and making it even bigger and better next year. Be on the lookout for details regarding our 2nd annual web event in 2013 and be sure to send us your questions about, feedback on, and critique of our May 19th show. 

The Story behind the Story

By Jason Van Dyke, 32°, Manager of Media & Public Relations & Host, The Life Masonic podcast

Matt Szramoski (left, standing), Director of Development, at the phone bankPhoto: One of the rare photographs taken during the event of Ill. Matt Szramoski, 33°, Director of Development, (left, standing) who spent most of the evening behind the scenes ensuring things went smoothly. (Photography: Arthur W. Pierson, 32°)

Matt Szramoski isn’t driven by his ego.

He’s an overall conservative guy in just about everything he does. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, and he doesn’t swear. He goes to church every Sunday and extends kindness to his neighbors and firm but loving parenting to his children. And he doesn’t dress flashy, or drive an even vaguely nice car.
What Matt is driven by is a passion for worthy causes—something he knows a lot about as the Director of Development for the Supreme Council, 33°, S.J. He’s held this position for almost a year, and in that time, he’s transformed how a 200-year-old fraternity that sees change with a wary eye thinks about and plans for its future. And he did it in a way that belies his own conservative nature—he took a huge risk.

It was all the way back in early 2011 when Matt took a crazy idea and drafted a serious proposal to hold a national “telethon” to raise money not only for the renovation and restoration of the House of the Temple, but also for local Temple preservation funds, RiteCare® Speech and Language Centers, and other charitable activities that the Valleys and Orients of the jurisdiction support. The House of the Temple would be entirely responsible for the production and airing of the event, but would split all online and phone donations for the day of the event with the local Valleys and Orients.

Nothing like it had ever been attempted by a national fraternal organization before, and it promised to be a Herculean task to organize and produce successfully. But, here is where Matt is lucky—Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale loves big, new ideas like Admiral Sizemore loves flying. He immediately saw a new and electrifying way to engage the membership and to unite them across the country with a common goal. He said “Yes!” (almost before Matt was done asking) and offered whatever help would be needed.

Matt started working immediately. But then the Biennial Session came, followed quickly by the regional Leadership Conferences. It seemed like there was always a different priority. By January of 2012, Matt was finally able to have a meeting with the staff at the House of the Temple to begin planning the event. But after review, the plan lacked energy and the show itself threatened to be dull and uninspiring. It was decided that the staff needed help—professional help.

The Carlin Company was one of three firms invited to submit a proposal on what the web event would look like and how it would be produced in specific detail. Their Founder and Senior Producer, David Carlin King, along with their Director of Sales and Marketing, Jerry Philpott, made our production their immediate company focus. Not only was this a good business opportunity, but they were genuinely interested in the bigger picture—supporting, in the most effective way, the fundraising goals for the Supreme Council and its individual Valleys and Orients. They even offered to make their own contribution to the event. Never once did they say, “It really can’t be done.” Rather, they gleefully accepted the challenge and always offered a way to take suggestions and ideas to the next level. It was an exciting proposal and a winning attitude. The job was theirs. 

From this point on, Matt and his team, Bro. Robert Heffelfinger, 32°, and Alison Godfrey, began the real work with David and Jerry. The proposal was refined and brought to life—assignments were handed out to the staff of the House of the Temple and to the Carlin Company. Deadlines were set, and work on a script for the entire six-hour evening, broken down to the minute, was begun.

Quickly, the search was on for a host. The Grand Commander suggested his old friend from California, Ill. Norm Crosby, 33°, Grand Cross. Norm was an entertainment industry veteran, and more importantly, came with experience hosting a big telethon for charity. (Bro. Norm has been a frequent co-host of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.) It only took one short phone call for Norm to be onboard, and with his involvement, the rest of the event would fall into place like lock-step.

The Carlin Company outlined their plans in detail during a large meeting in late February. They would broadcast the show live via satellite on the web, and there would be video clips from around the country highlighting the importance of giving and the proud traditions of the Scottish Rite. There would also be live music onsite and communications from Valleys across the country holding parties to support the Web Event. It would be a fundraiser, but it was going to be a fun and entertaining one.

By this point, every minute of preparation had to count. Arrangements had to be made for extra phone lines, a new toll-free line, a web-based donation portal, a mobile text-giving number, and an integrated promotions campaign through Facebook, Twitter, direct emails, official communications from the Grand Commander, and articles in The Scottish Rite Journal. In the Valleys, word was being spread and viewing parties were starting to be arranged—cookouts, family gatherings, new member recruitment, and other local events.

With cool efficiency—and Matt’s steady leadership—these tasks were completed one by one. Orients and Valleys tightened, then cemented their plans and synchronized them with the event in Washington. What felt like months away became weeks away, and weeks away became days away, until Friday morning came, May 18—one day until the show.

Usually the staff at the House of the Temple works four ten-hour days, Monday through Thursday. The week of the Web Event would be different. That week, much of the staff would give up their Friday and their Saturday to something more important: the House of the Temple, itself.

And on Friday morning, Matt arrived to work early. He hadn’t slept much in the last few weeks—too much to do. He was up until the wee hours of Friday morning working on last-minute script changes. But Friday morning was load-in day for the production crew, and Matt needed to be on-hand with Ill. Sean Graystone, Robin Hicks, Bro. Ray Johnson, and Bro. Chip Mahaney from the House of the Temple Building and Grounds staff to prepare the building and guide the move-in team.

By 1:00 p.m. thick black A/V cables cascaded like waterfalls into five-inch high pools from every table in the Robert Burns Library, and the delicate carpets and marble floors around the building were shielded from pointy tripods and shuffling boots by 100 sheets of 4′ × 8′ cardboard, called “layout board.” By 5:00 p.m. the three studio cameras and various microphones were set and connected to the now full-fledged control room in the Burns Library, the telephone stations were neatly draped and sitting atop risers, the “stage” was set, and lights were hung from two large trusses above the set with smaller ones all around the edges on the floor, providing dramatic up-lighting. The host had arrived from California in high spirits and was settled into his hotel room for a good night’s sleep.

But it was another sleepless night for Bro. Matt—he couldn’t stop planning. He ran over the plan for Saturday in his head again and again. Had he accounted for everything? Would all the redundancies he built into the show work? What would fail? (He knew that something always fails during a complex event like this.) 

Matt watched the calm darkness of Friday night slowly brighten to the light of Saturday morning while he puzzled over his plans. As he drove to work, he knew that at this point it didn’t matter anyway. The die was cast. The Celebration of the Craft was going to happen regardless of what he did or didn’t do now.

When he arrived, there was no panic. Everyone had come prepared to work until midnight (some, much later) and make the show a success. Before anyone knew it, almost the entire staff of the Supreme Council was on hand and in their places. The Carlin Company’s crew was in place quietly performing their pre-show rituals and double-checks. This included a phalanx of audio and video operators, camera people, web and satellite techs, a script writer, a teleprompter operator, a floor director, and even a makeup artist.

And with almost no pomp and circumstance—at 6:00 p.m. exactly—the show began.

In a testament to Matt’s leadership—the evening would operate with few hitches. The only serious problem occurring in the first hour, when a large storm over Florida interrupted satellite communications for about four minutes before the team was able to successfully move to a back-up satellite.

And in what seemed like a blink, it was midnight, and the show was over.

When the dust settled, a little over $400,000 had been raised for the House of the Temple and the various charities of the Valleys and Orients—all in six hours’ time!
It was a huge success. Matt and his team (not just the Carlin Company and House of the Temple staff, but hundreds of men and women in local Valleys around the country) had triumphed. And now another celebration is planned to celebrate the Scottish Rite—next year—when Matt will do it all over again. But this time, he’ll have a full year to plan and create.

So 2013 promises to have more appearances from Masons around the country, more surprises, and more interactions and participation from all the Valleys in the jurisdiction. It will be more successful financially for the localities and more entertaining for everyone. Simply put, it will just be plain bigger and better. It’s a risk that a conservative guy like Matt Szramoski is willing to take.