Spotlight: The "Fab Four," 2023 Excellence in Auxiliary Award Winners

Posted By: Amy Grier SPARC News,

SPARC was born out of a desire to forge a community for auxiliary professionals built on development, support, and collaboration. This is most evident in our annual conference where we have the chance to interact in person, whether we're attending seminars, exchanging ideas over lunch, or singing karaoke together in a packed bar.

Four people who met at our 2022 conference exemplify the SPARC spirit with their genuine friendship and professional camaraderie. I reached out to 2023 Excellence in Auxiliary Award winners Katie Peterson, Travis Walker, Laura Walker, and Michael Carmody—affectionately known as the “Fab Four”—to learn more about their story. Each offered thoughtful and generous insight into their SPARC-inspired connection.

They met at lunch between sessions and knew by that evening's rousing karaoke party that they wanted to be friends. "We knew we had something special when the communication after the conference never stopped," says Travis, who calls himself the 'little brother' of the group. "We set up monthly meetings that we call 'power hours' where we each take some time to talk about something we are focused on." 

"It was like a fire hose of campiness!" Laura says about hanging out together at the conference. "I think what we didn't realize at the time we all connected was that we needed each other... we needed that friendship that felt like a family." 

In February, they decided to take a leap and meet up in Austin, Texas. They further bonded by talking shop and realizing they truly cared about each other as both colleagues and friends. “That trip really solidified our connection,” says Michael. “If you can travel with people and not get tired of each other, you have a special friendship.”

Katie emphasizes how the group prioritizes staying connected and championing each other’s professional development. “After our first Power Hour, we realized quickly this was a professional group that brought immense value to our individual programs… we created an agenda via GoogleDocs… this morphed into a whole shared Google Drive for us to share documents, org charts, handbooks, etc. to help individually elevate our programs while crowd sourcing information and best practices.” 

It’s this mix of the professional and personal that makes their bond unique. “In a world where it is hard to make friends,” says Travis, “having and fostering this friendship has been a true gift… it is astonishing to think about how us coming together for a work conference resulted in this friendship and love for each other.” 

They all agree that the strength of their connection requires commitment. Laura emphasizes having “accountability with our communication, and even if we get busy, one of us notices and does a text check-in. That takes dedication on all our parts. We genuinely want to keep a pulse on each other despite the time zones, states apart, and the chaos of everyday life.”

Michael encourages other SPARC members to find their own unique connections within our community. “Katie touched on this during her impromptu speech at this year's National Conference, but I want to reiterate it, because it's so true,” he says. “Put yourself out there and find your people through the platform that SPARC provides. Go to that dinner that you would normally skip. Share a golf cart ride with new people. Exchange numbers with the people who make you smile… that's probably the most important thing I have learned from this cohort; if you dive into the connection and prioritize it, you open up a new world of memories, knowledge, and growth.”

The unique friendship of the Fab Four illustrates the powerful connections that can blossom within the SPARC community. If we are willing to take a leap of faith and dive into new friendships with others who understand the auxiliary world, who knows what wonderful, life-changing things can happen?

Each year, SPARC recognizes individuals and organizations for their exemplary work and outstanding contributions to the field of independent school auxiliary programs.

Katie Peterson is the Director of Auxiliary Programs, Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota

Travis Walker is the Director of Auxiliary Programs, All Saints Episcopal School in Beaumont, Texas

Laura Walker is the Director of Summer Day Camps, Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, North Carolina

Michael Carmody is the Director of Auxiliary Programs, Fort Worth Country Day in Fort Worth, Texas