Kalamadoodle Faithful,

After debating myself for months, receiving feedback from family and friends, and speaking with respected members of our community, one thing has become clear: Change is needed. And now I want to be honest with you about what that means.

First and foremost, I want to thank Blake Eason and Elena Campos. Since the beginning, these two have volunteered countless hours towards this project and Kalamadoodle wouldn't be what it is today without them and their help. I'd also like to thank Matt Geerling and Lori Gottschling, who have captured the essence of our events with stellar photography, volunteering their talents and resources to help share our experience in digital form. And to my co-founder, Nick Clark, who believed in this crazy idea, helped launch and structure the project, and has continued to dedicate time, resources and support along the way; thank you.

I also want to thank you, our Kalamadoodle supporters, and the greater Kalamazoo community. You have all played a tremendous part in the success of this project through your attendance, creativity, encouragement, and of course, doodles. Together we have built something extremely special.

Photo: Lori Gottschling - Arcadia Brewing Company 8.19.2015

Photo: Lori Gottschling - Arcadia Brewing Company 8.19.2015

Over two years ago, Kalamadoodle was created as a celebration of craft and creativity. By bringing people together and encouraging them to simply explore their imagination through drawing, we believed we could provide a fun and relaxing environment. One that allowed strangers to become friends, while spending a few hours away from the demands of work and everyday life. With a lot of effort, the help of our passionate volunteers, and the support of this enthusiastic community, we've accomplished all of that and more, exceeding our own expectations.

When we started, we had no idea what the response would be, and had no intention of establishing Kalamadoodle as its own business or non-profit. We simply wanted to build a D.I.Y. project that would benefit the Kalamazoo community. To encourage artists and non-artists to create. To show college graduates that they don't need to move to a larger city for refreshing ideas and fun events. To inspire individuals to chase their dreams, no matter how big or small. And to help others believe that with hard work and heart, amazing things are possible.

Set on that mission, we launched this project with no outside funding. We didn't ask or wait for corporate sponsors, community grants, crowd-funding, or other sources of financial backing to help get us started. We worked hard and out-of-pocket to prove Kalamadoodle could exist, grow, and turn into an impressive community building resource.  And we did just that.

Photo: Matt Geerling - Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (Kalamazoo Beer Week) 1.20.2016

Photo: Matt Geerling - Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (Kalamazoo Beer Week) 1.20.2016

But as we continue to see growth, keeping this passion project going has turned into a real part time job. As the co-founder and active organizer of Kalamadoodle, I use the resources of my creative studio, Stuffed Brain, to fund, organize, and curate our events and online content. And as I continue to evaluate my own personal and professional needs, I must also be mindful of our volunteers' outside obligations and commitments, and be respectful in determining what is fair to ask of them. After reflecting on all of this for some time, it has weighed on me heavily, and become obvious that it would be irresponsible to continue moving forward without having an honest dialogue with you; the people who follow, enjoy, and embrace this project.

Currently, we have events scheduled through October, but the unfortunate truth is that without additional funding, the time we donate towards this project and these monthly events will become unsustainable in the long run. Personally, it's incredibly difficult to ask for people to support this project financially. So much so, that I thought to simply wait until October and then call it a day, without discussion, and move on with my pride intact. But, I know this project is making a positive impact in the lives of many and helping bring people together who may have never met otherwise. Close family and friends have reminded me that Kalamadoodle has been a remarkable example of how to break down barriers that keep people from engaging with one another and their own imagination. For those reasons, as well as many more, they encouraged me to reach out to you, in hopes of finding people who want to see this project continue and remain as accessible as possible.

To remain transparent, after the first year we felt confident about our monthly attendance, and began asking for a small (yet significant) amount of compensation from our brewery and community partners. We've appreciated that support greatly, but it is not enough to keep this project thriving or viable. There are several different models that could be tested to raise additional funding (Kickstarter for example), but most of them require an enormous amount of research, time, and money, not to mention the creation and logistics of securing giveaway products. We feel our real value is providing exciting events, an active blog, and an engaging social media presence. Since we are already spread pretty thin, investing in a product-based fundraiser requires additional resources that we do not have.

So now, we humbly ask you, the people who have made Kalamadoodle so special, to help keep it going. We've added a Donation Page where you can do your part to directly contribute to the stability and growth of this community building project. Based on some very modest figures, our goal is to reach $7,200 by August 31st, which will help cover material costs, as well as a little bit of our time. It will also allow us to continue developing and start implementing new experiences to share with you all over the next year. If we cannot reach our funding goal, we still plan to use any money raised to support the Kalamadoodle platform, and hope to find new ways to continue making a positive impact here in Kalamazoo.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for all of the enthusiasm and passion you've had for Kalamadoodle. It's been a wild ride these past few years and I certainly hope to keep it going. So, if you believe in what we're building, or have enjoyed our events, please consider donating today. With your help, we can continue spreading creativity in Kalamazoo, and keep asking our community to SHOW US YOUR DOODLES!

With Paper, Pencil, and Love,

Mike Klok and the Kalamadoodle Team

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