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Courtney Melendez

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posted by Courtney Melendez May 06,2016 @ 08:00AM

CreateAthon Magic & Miracle Workers

CreateAthon 2015 marked the eighteenth pro-bono allnighter, and my third since joining Riggs Partners. We make extra pots of coffee, round up some friends, don matching t-shirts and stay up for 24 hours cranking out as much pro-bono work as possible for a handful of nonprofits. Each year brings new challenges, rewards and memories, but this year was extra special.

I found out about HALTER and the work they do from my best friend who lives in the upstate. Their neighbor has a young daughter enrolled in HALTER’s therapeutic riding program, and my friend had been to several of their events over the years and raved about the work they do. Growing up, horses were a huge part of my life, and my youngest sister who is special needs has also benefitted from therapeutic riding in the past. So HALTER’s mission really resonates with me. That’s why, when CreateAthon applications opened, I called HALTER myself to to invite them to apply.

They asked us for help with marketing collateral for an upcoming capital campaign. Their plan was to enclose their covered arena so they could offer year-round classes and serve more riders. The campaign also hoped to add stables to house their equine therapists, or “miracle workers” as they’re affectionately called. Of the things HALTER asked our team to produce, more than anything they wanted a video. They needed help telling their story to donors capable of making a major gift; people who most likely had never experienced HALTER’s work first hand.

Producing a video on the CreateAthon timeline is a tall order. I still look back and think we were crazy for even trying, but thankfully our friends at Mad Monkey and the rest of our CreateAthon team were miracle workers of the two-legged variety. In addition to the video, we delivered a stunning new logo, identity package, case for support, t-shirts and stickers.




We presented all that work — produced in 24 hours — in a client presentation that has gone down in CreateAthon history. Partly because my colleagues will never let me forget that I got a little choked up (okay, ugly cried) 30 seconds in.

The bigger storyline was the CreateAthon magic that was in the room that morning. We’d produced the video and it was so pure, powerful that it took our breath away. Before long, everyone was crying. To be able to give so much to a group that transforms the lives of children was an amazing gift for our creative team and one that’s really stuck with us. After we wrapped up, I didn’t stop sniffling for at least another hour or two (okay, days.)

Here’s to the wonderful team I had the pleasure of working with on this project, HALTER and the amazing work they do each day, and to the moments in life that make you ugly cry. I hope you love this video as much as we do. Before you hit play, I have a tip for you. Grab a tissue.





posted by Courtney Melendez Nov 04,2015 @ 11:32AM

A Serious Case of the Feel-Goods: A CreateAthon Recap

There are certain things in this world that give me the warm fuzzies. Quality time with family and friends. Hugs from my hubs. Rainy day naps. Puppies. And CreateAthon.

 Oh CreateAthon – that crazy 24 hours akin to a youth lock-in except with piles of costumes, tons of food, way too much caffeine, and a bunch of volunteer creative rockstars. Every year it blows my mind. Inevitably somewhere around the midnight check-in the panic sets in. The “Oh my God we’re more than halfway how the heck are we going to finish what if we don’t have anything to show the client” kind of panic. So I did what any self-respecting account manager would do. I hid behind a ninja mask, and reported that we had a lot of really good ideas in the works. Which was only a half-truth. Spoiler alert: it all worked out splendidly. It always does.

It took me two full nights of sleep and the best chicken biscuit on the planet to feel normal. Now, about two weeks out I’m in the solid feel-good stage. And I’m (almost) ready to do it again. Here’s a snippet of one of the projects I had the pleasure of working on:

Able SC, a Center for Independent Living (CIL), is focused on empowering people of all ages with all types disabilities. This year, they tasked our CreateAthon team with developing a statewide campaign focused on communicating the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

We developed a series of direct mail pieces targeted to HR & hiring managers. Our goal was to highlight the strengths that people with disabilities bring to the table, while planting a tiny seed of doubt that they may be overlooking the perfect candidate. Social media ads, and trade show banners rounded out the deliverables for this client.


Our friends at Able SC told our team that this is exactly what they needed, and they can’t wait to deploy the plan. Smiles all-around!


posted by Courtney Melendez Oct 13,2015 @ 10:17AM

Business as Usual

I’ve seen some heartbreaking things over the past week. Our community has seen devastation in our own backyard that I struggle to describe as anything other than surreal. Through all the heartache and tears, I’ve seen the incredible spirit of this community come together in amazing ways this week. Whichever direction you look, everyone is helping someone.

So, even though it’s tough to get back to “business as usual,” I’m super-grateful that the “business as usual” agenda next week includes CreateAthon—our annual undertaking that helps very worthy, local nonprofits. Here’s a sneak peek at two of the organizations we’ll be working ’round the clock for on October 22.



HALTER, a therapeutic horseback-riding program, has served residents with disabilities in Spartanburg and surrounding counties since 1987. Located on the campus for the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, HALTER provides sessions that run from early spring through late fall each year.

 Currently, HALTER is gearing up for a $1.2 million capital campaign that will raise funds needed to enclose their covered arena and extend therapy sessions year-round. The campaign will also allow the program to add classroom space for pre- and post-therapy sessions, horse stables, volunteer changing rooms, storage space , and spectator seating for competitions such as Special Olympics. Exciting, right?! We think so.

 HALTER has asked us to develop collateral to support their fundraising goal. Our efforts during CreateAthon will focus on updating their logo and creating fundraising collateral that will ignite their campaign.


Able SC, a Center for Independent Living (CIL), provides an array of independent living services across 23 counties in South Carolina. Focused on empowering people of all ages with all types disabilities, Able SC does everything it takes to help individuals reach and maintain their highest level of independence.

Thankfully, Able SC already has several things going for them. Their brand is established, and they have a powerhouse staff that tirelessly advocates and leads by example. Now, they’re thinking bigger. Our CreateAthon team has been tasked with developing a statewide campaign focused on communicating the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Collateral and communications will target South Carolina employers, and will likely include deliverables such as outdoor boards, brochures and posters.


To learn more about these two incredible nonprofits, log on and check out HALTER and Able SC And, be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter as we work CreateAthon magic starting at 8 a.m. on Thursday, October 22. We can also be found using the hashtags #RPCreateathon and #CreateAthon.

posted by Courtney Melendez Oct 21,2014 @ 04:19AM

Columbia Urban League: Creating a culture of high expectations

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 400,000 children are currently in foster care. While foster homes can and do provide a safe haven for many children who cannot remain with their birth parents, it’s no surprise that today’s youth in foster care can face numerous challenges.

Columbia Urban League has been doing its part to provide a constant and stable environment for youth in foster care through their Youth Leadership Development Institute (YLDI) for more than 10 years. Focusing on students in foster care aged 14-19, YLDI helps these teens transition to self-reliant adults and productive members of society. The nurturing and robust curriculum provides:

  • Individualized counseling
  • Career development
  • Summer work program
  • Independent living skills
  • College preparation
  • Job readiness training
  • Career 101 (Work Keys Certification Prep)
  • Empowerment workshops
  • Cultural activities

Job readiness training helps youth prepare for both employment and the work experience. Job readiness training helps youth prepare for both employment and the work experience.

When we met with President and CEO James T. MacLawhorn and his YLDI staff to prep for CreateAthon, one thing was crystal clear: this team cares deeply and passionately for this program and the youth who participate in it. When asked why they find their work so meaningful, we heard some inspiring answers:

“Helping kids see their potential. That there’s something bigger and better than the space they are living in.” - Program Director Juanita Dean-Bates

“My passion is to see their lives change and transform, watch them grow, and give them hope again.” - Case Management Specialist Regina LaBrew

“We work with young people so they see the value within themselves. When they do that, they’ll put forth the effort.” - President and CEO James T. MacLawhorn.

MacLawhorn also added that the primary focus of YLDI is to create a culture of high expectations. “From a programmatic perspective, we believe that when people have a vision of high expectations, they’ll prepare themselves.”

In just a few days, a CreateAthon team will have the privilege of helping to develop a marketing strategy and support collateral for YLDI, with the goal of boosting year-round and multi-year participation from students. We’re excited to play a role in lifting this worthy program and the youth it serves.

If you’re interested in learning more about YLDI, visit and be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter as we work CreateAthon magic for Columbia Urban League and seven other local nonprofits. CreateAthon kicks off at 8am Thursday, October 23 and can be found using the hashtags #RPCreateathon #CreateAthon and #PBW14.


posted by Courtney Melendez Jan 23,2014 @ 09:01AM

New Beginnings

Here’s where it all started.

It was day three of our four day vacation, celebrating one year of marriage.

Blissful right? It was. Except for the fact that our vacation was almost over, and I had yet to relax. Seriously. My mind was swirling with work stress—my venture into the nonprofit world a few years ago just wasn’t turning out the way I had expected it to. A successful career in sales had led me to the non-profit fundraising world where I sought deeper meaning beyond what the corporate world could offer. I wanted my work to really help people, and not just meet financial goals and hit sales targets. I’ll use my skill set to give back, I thought. Sales and fundraising compliment each other, right? While true, I found myself lacking the fulfillment I had initially sought.

Somewhere in the space between my sandy toes and the grass thatch roof that shaded me, a crossroads appeared. In that moment, I admitted to myself I that I needed a change. Weight lifted. Clouds parted. I relaxed.

By the time our plane touched down back in SC, I knew what I was going to do. The next step roared into my consciousness the moment I made space for it. Enter Riggs Partners.

I’d had the pleasure of working with the talented folks at Riggs during my nonprofit tenure, and two of my friends—Kelly Davis and Keely Saye—had already joined their dream team. So, when I heard they were looking for an Account Manager, I jumped at the chance to investigate. On May 9th, 2013, not completely understanding exactly what the opportunity entailed, I emailed two of the partners I knew: Teresa Coles and Cathy Monetti.

My email subject line was something along the lines of “I just can’t help myself…” and I proceeded to request more details, and an opportunity to explore whether or not I might be a fit. Clicking "send" was one of those pivotal life moments.

And then there was this. Cathy was the first to respond to my email, and I instantly knew I was on the right track.

Smiley face indeed my friend.

One conversation with the ever-inspiring Teresa Coles over duck fat fries (If you haven’t tried them, get thee to Café Strudel immediately) confirmed what I already knew in my heart. This was my place.

I’m now about four months into my role as an Account Manager at Riggs. I’m learning more every day (heck, every minute) about our industry and how to best support our team here, and I'm working as hard as I can to help our clients meet their goals. Added bonus? I will still get my nonprofit fix through the magic of CreateAthon every year.

Moral of the story: Beautiful things happen when you follow your heart. Pulling into the WECO every morning feels like a hug. Like coming home. So glad to be here, and I’m buckled in for the ride.




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