When COVID forced a canceled reunion, these friends took to Marco Polo

Friends & Family

As his 30th college reunion approached, Michael Champlin – “Champ” to his buddies – watched the pandemic unfold and saw the writing on the wall. Convening in June was going to be a no-go.

Champ was philosophical but still disappointed. His treasured group of 10 once-inseparable friends, the people who’d finished each other’s sentences, shared innumerable laughs and snarky inside jokes, thrived on each other’s energy, and held each other up, had drifted.

“Life happens, and after all these years we were mostly down to occasional group texts,” he says.

Champ thought that was going to be the end of it – everyone would just wait COVID out and try again at the next reunion – when his sister showed him an app she was using to stay in touch with her own friend group during lockdown.

“I tried Marco Polo and instantly knew it would be perfect for us,” he says.

Vintage ’80s

Getting the band back together

Champ took to Marco Polo right away and particularly enjoyed the premium features of Marco Polo Plus. But he anticipated that it would take time to get the others on board. Everybody was overwhelmed by sheltering in place. Would talking on video be a hindrance? Is it as easy as everybody says?

“They were giving me guff for it, until one friend finally said, ‘Yeah, ok. I’ll give it a shot.’”

Little by little, other friends trickled in, starting with the extroverts. One, a musician, took the group interaction to a new level when he documented the delivery and unboxing of a brand new guitar over Marco Polo. The crowd went wild.

“Seeing his excitement and being able to respond with live Video Reactions -hey, that looks awesome, love the shape of that, can you play a little bit, I want to hear the tone – created a completely different experience from texting,” Champ says. “It brought our personalities to life, which really is what reconnected us after all this time.”

Finding a new groove

Pretty soon, the group was averaging a hundred Polos a day and trying to perfect “the art of the Polo.” They frequently contributed what they came to call “short-form Polos” – two-to-four second zingers – but equally as often settled in for long-form Polos, “which led us to explore the 2x feature,” Champ laughs. “So imagine our delight to also discover 3x in the Plus version.”

The group has held dance competitions, staged and recorded socially distant flash mobs, and produced nightly talk shows, among them Chair Chats with Champ (sponsored by Champ’s Chain of Chairs) and a coronavirus Q&A with one of the doctors in the group. Champ says that one began seriously and then devolved, in his words, “into idiocy.”

"Every single one of us has commented on how lucky we are to be able to stay in touch this way after so many years."

Even the group’s most reserved friend, nicknamed “Soup,” enjoys the chat. The whole group could be carrying on a half-hour conversation with Soup hovering silently in the background until boom, he throws in one sardonic zinger that makes everyone lose it with laughter.

“But all of our kidding aside, the truth is that Marco Polo is keeping us connected,” Champ says. “Every single one of us has commented on how lucky we are to be able to stay in touch this way after so many years. We’re seeing each other’s kids, families, homes, pets…the app has really rekindled that closeness that we had back in college. We could not be more in love with all of this.”