Day 1: General Mills BTFE Blogger Panel - Arrive, Strive, Dive

"Together – with the Box Tops for Education team here at General Mills – we can create a brighter future for our children."

The first lines of the invitation letter inviting me to participate in the a blogger panel for the General Mills Box Tops for Education fundraising program felt like an April Fools prank gone all wrong. I thought I was on an episode of MTV's Punk'd, to be precise. Surely someone would follow up with a retraction statement and apologize profusely for any confusion. They would tell me that the email was sent in error and that I was not the correct recipient of this amazing opportunity.

But that never happened! 

Instead, I rode off into the sunset, on the back of a horse and lived happily ever after.

That story is still in my drafts folder. 
I will have to get back it later. 
Now, where was I?!

After re-reading the email several times, shouting from the rooftop and counting my blessings, I graciously accepted the invitation. I was now an official member of the General Mills Box Tops for Education Blogger Panel. I knew this would be the beginning of something special.


As the plane lifted its wheels from the runway of the airport in Washington, D.C. and took flight into the clear, blue skies above, I gathered my thoughts in anticipation of what would happen in the next few days.

The flight was a breeze. I landed without incident. I was greeted by a driver at the airport, where we were quickly joined by fellow panelist, Tia, from Double Saving Divas. She and I wasted no time getting to know each other. We talked about our blogs, our family, our children, the weather...everything!

photo courtesy of Hilton Minneapolis
We arrived in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota (headquarters location of General Mills) and checked in the Hilton Minneapolis.


I wanted to take advantage of the few extra hours on the schedule before the day's events began. So, I hit the streets of downtown Minneapolis and did the most spontaneous things ever – I found the nearest Target store, bought a pair of fabulous sandals and got a pedicure. How's that for adventurous?!




Once all of the bloggers arrived, we met in the lobby of the hotel. It was nice to finally see the faces of people you follow and admire online. The other bloggers were:
We were shuttled to the Walker Art Center, just a short drive away. It was here that we met the wonderful people behind General Mills that selected each of us to join the panel. They were exactly the way I expected them to be – warm, inviting, and friendly – and eager to learn more about us as we were eager to gain more knowledge about the Box Tops for Education program.

Each blogger shared a few words about themselves and their blog. We engaged in a mini MBA session that focused on branding and how we could take our blog to the next level. I was immediately inspired to take my blog into a new direction and make a few changes, even if minor, that would enhance  the experience for my readers. The creative juices are flowing.


Following the MBA session, we toured the Walker Art Center. Our guide was very "colorful". Her energy breathed new life into me. After a plane ride, a walk downtown and a bit of brainstorming, I needed a quick pick-me-up.

Thank goodness for happy hour, hosted by Lamar Tyler from Black and Married with Kids. It was finally time to relax. Time to bond. Kick it.

We hit it off like one big, happy family. And it didn't hurt having a wonderful selection of music as the backdrop to the evening (Thanks Derrick).

The one thing I noticed about General Mills from the first meeting in the Skyline Room at the Walker Art Center, is that they know how to treat their guests. The food was perfect. The drinks were refreshing. The conversation was pleasant. There was a perfect ambiance. 

There was even a drink coined the "bloggertini" made especially for our panel. Talk about attention to details. 

The first day set the precedent for the following days. General Mills welcomed us in style, with ease...

...and with a basket full of goodies waiting in each hotel room upon returning from the Walker Art Center.

Be on the lookout for Day 2 of my adventures in Minneapolis at General Mills headquarters. 

About Box Tops for Education

Box Tops for Education offers parents and kids easy, everyday ways to earn cash for their school . The program began in 1996, as more and more schools struggled to make ends meet. Each year enrolled schools receive a program kit to help them build their own comprehensive fundraising campaign. Most schools designate a program coordinator to develop ways to encourage students, parents, school staff and community members to clip Box Tops from participating products and bring them to school.

After the collected Box Tops are sent in to General Mills, the school receives a check, equivalent to 10 cents for every Box Top redeemed to spend on anything they choose. Thousands of schools have used the cash from Box Tops for Education to purchase items such as computers and computer software, library books, art supplies and playground equipment. Support our kids’ schools today at

Fan Box Tops for Education on Facebook at
Follow Box Tops for Education on Twitter at
Learn more at YouTube

Disclosure Information
I am a member of the Box Tops for Education® Blogger Panel. General Mills is covering all associated costs including airfare, hotel, and transportation. The opinions and views are my own.

**some of the photos are courtesy of General Mills, taken by Andrea Ellen Reed  
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