Sadie Townsend, a beloved member of our team, recently left us to return to the states. While we are excited for her as she begins the next chapter of her life, it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye. Sadie’s infectious positivity, warmth, sense of humor, and openness will be missed by students, parents, team members, friends, dogs, and neighbors alike. No matter the circumstances, Sadie found a way to connect to everybody in the community, often asking unexpected, perceptive questions to lighten the mood or open people up.
While working with the Valpo Surf Project, Sadie had a variety of roles and responsibilities. During the first year of her year-and-a-half here, she was responsible for all things social media. If you are an observant follower of our social media accounts, you may have noticed that Sadie’s face was largely absent from photos until recently. Sadie spent her first year behind the lens, capturing every beautiful moment of our programming.
In addition to her duties as social media guru, Sadie was responsible for all communication with Laguna Verde, one of our four neighborhoods. To say that she is truly beloved by students, parents, and community members in Laguna Verde would be a gross understatement. She reached out to everybody in the community with genuine interest and warmth, greeting everyone as if she’d known them her whole life. While surfing is obviously a huge piece of our programming, our mentorship and support extends to all aspects of our students growth and development; Sadie embodied our mentorship goals in the fullest possible sense by ingraining herself in the community. Witnessing this connection was truly inspiring, as it forced all of us to consider the possibilities in each of our own neighborhoods.
More recently, Sadie took over our volunteer coordination, managing a large group of students and professionals from Chile and abroad. She was perfect for the role, as she made everybody feel welcome and engendered the highest level of respect and enthusiasm for the program. In this role, Sadie lead orientations for new volunteers, communicated with several study abroad programs, and scheduled all volunteer participation with our students. To do so required incredible interpersonal and organizational skills, as we are an organization in constant motion throughout the week. We deeply appreciate and need all forms of volunteering, in the office or with kids, so her work made a lot of our work possible.
Sadie came to us by way of Walla Walla, Washington, a fact that amused many of our students. Repeating “Walla Walla” is undeniably fun, particularly with a large group of rowdy students. She attended a bilingual elementary school in her hometown and has been a keen learner and speaker of Spanish ever since. After a year of dialing in her Spanish skills, she plans to pursue a third language next year, having realized her desire to connect with people from all over the world. We are all jealous of whichever community she joins next and know that she will positively impact those around her in innumerable ways.
Saying goodbye was not easy; tears were shed, long hugs were exchanged, and future plans were made. While it’s impossible to know what the future holds, we all know that Sadie will remain in our lives for years to come. Her impact on our students will resonate into the distant future, as will her connection to Valparaiso as a whole. She’s truly irreplaceable, as Beyonce would say, but we will do our best to move forward and use her example as constant inspiration. We wish her the best of luck as she navigates the college admissions process and settles into life at home. You always have a home in Valparaiso, Sadie!