Saturday, July 26, 2014

In 5/Under 5: Make A Wish with #CelebrityGrace

When I was in Grad school, I had plans to write what was going to be a ground breaking thesis and political adaptation of Richard III. Sounds exciting, right? (...only theatre nerds slowly nod head yes). However, I was completely immobilized by grief and attending counseling one to two times a week. Luckily, my Graduate Advisor allowed me the creative thesis route: to write a play. Mind you, I'd never taken any playwriting classes and certainly never written a play before. I'll be speaking more on this in a later post, but I'm jumping to the end of this anecdote. I called my mom and told her, "I don't know how to start this play."

"With grace," she said. And I did. The first words spoken in my play are by the character of Grace.

Those two words have stuck with me for a long time; I try to live it everyday, and I now have an affinity for people named Grace. So, it's with great affection that I introduce you to #CelebrityGrace. Please allow the following fan girl rant...

You guys, Grace is my FAVORITE celebrity and she's actually in Los Angeles this weekend!! She's been sighted in several LA hotspots and I hear she's even more beautiful in pictures! If that's even possible!! She was greeted in LA by her fans and some paparazzi, waving to the crowd and signing a few autographs. I love her style, her smile brightens up a room, and she seems so fun! Wish I could meet her! Have a great weekend in L.A., Celebrity Grace, you are seriously the coolest.

You can still be part of Grace's celebrity Wish! In under five minutes, make a little sign showing Grace some love and share it on instagram with the hashtag #CelebrityGrace so she can see and #TeamITLT so WE can see it! It's adorable how she's been keeping up with photos, commenting, and re-sharing pictures. Just a few minutes might make this little lady's weekend even more special. Here's ours!

The official Make A Wish "Sign ups" are closed, but if you're in Los Angeles you can see below for Grace's next destinations. Follow her on IG: @CelebrityGrace and check out the photos from her celebrity-filled weekend! You can also follow @wishlosangeles and #CelebrityGrace for live tweets! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In 5/Under 5: Wish Miss Emma a Happy 8th Birthday

While you have your stationary out...

...make a card for Emma, who turned 8 yrs old on July 22nd. She has terminal cancer, and I'm sure would love a little extra love. It's true, we're a little late in posting this information, but we only just found out! Plus, belated birthday wishes will come as such a treat!

Letters can be sent to:

Pediatric Ward Kaiser Permanente
Los Angeles Medical Center
4867 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

And here's ours!

Borrowed this photo from some friends on facebook. So glad this is our community :)
Go #TeamITLT!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In 5/Under 5: Take a Moment to Make Danny's Birthday Wish Come True

This is our first of In 5/Under 5 post!  In five minutes, under five dollars. Essentially, if you have a few minutes, a pen, paper, and stamp-- you can do this little project! When I first envisioned what it's the little things would be, I imagined it would look just like this post. Quick, creative, and meaningful. Of course, not all creative acts of kindness can be this easy, but take advantage that this one is! If you 'like' us on facebook, then you've already heard about this...

A 5-year-old boy with an inoperable brain tumor has one wish for his birthday: personalized birthday cards with his name on them. His mom says he's super excited about now being able to recognize his name, and he's a huge fan of Super Mario and Lego.

Last October, this little boy from from Foxboro, Massachusetts was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. It is one of the most chemotherapy-resistant cancers; a condition from which less than 10% of sufferers live longer than 18 months. He had to stop attending kindergarten while he received treatment and got lonely away from his friends. But on July 25th, Danny turns SIX!

Letters can be sent to:
Danny Nickerson
P.O. Box 212
Foxboro, MA 02035

This is similar to our very first project, Letters of Love. Check it out for inspiration or material suggestions! But even with just the basics, you can participate. What a cutie!

 PHOTO: Danny Nickerson of Foxboro, Mass. was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last October.

Check the full update here, but it's not too late to send a little note! Read more about Danny on Twitter by searching #cardsfordanny and instagram your cards for him using #TeamITLT so we can see and share. Here's ours!

So far, Danny has received letters and prayers from places like Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Austria, California, Alaska, Norway and Sweden... 

...where will you be sending your birthday from?
Let us know in the comments below! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Kids Helping Kids: The First ITLT Workshop

This blog started as a resource for people to access creative acts of kindness from home. Several weeks ago, however, one of my favorite super moms approached me about hosting a workshop for the kids in her community. All of this happened pretty quickly. We set a date and selected a theme: Kids Helping Kids. After tossing around several ideas, doing a lot of research, and playing phone tag with a few organizations, I announced our project. I was unsure exactly how to approach this topic at first because it's a sensitive issue, and I wanted to breach this carefully with the kids participating. Here's the email we sent out to the parents:

Agency: Haven Hills
What you need to know:
Haven Hills is a registered 501 (c) (3) organization in Canoga Park providing safety and support to victims of domestic violence, while working to break the cycle of abuse. Over the past 36 years, Haven Hills has served over 600,000 women and children, helping them rebuild their lives and free themselves from the horrors of domestic violence.

  • One in four women experience violence by their spouse or boyfriend.
  • One in three adolescent girls is a victim of abuse from dating a partner.
  • Three women a day are killed by their batterers in this country.  Most of these are murdered within two weeks of leaving the abusive situation. This is why it is vital that there are confidential shelters for women and their children to seek safety.
Haven Hills provides a 30 Crisis Shelter and an 18 Month Transitional Shelter for women and children transitioning out of abusive situations but most leave with only the clothes they are wearing. It is a unique facility because it offers and supports children's programs and community education. At the Haven Hills Shelter School the teacher uses art to let the students express themselves and their emotions. One project, “The Monster in Me,” is from A Window Between Worlds - a non-profit organization dedicated to using art to help end domestic violence. Using art in this way helps children identify feelings that they have been unable to talk about before.

What your kids need to know:
It's important to be a positive influence in your community! We know there are kids that weren't raised with some of the things we take for granted everyday. While it's nice to be grateful for what we have, it's also great to give what we can to those who need a little extra help. There's a group of kids that we're going to dedicate this first workshop to because they are having to start over. They're living in a new place, they're going to be making new friends, and they don't really have anything that they had before. We are going to spend an afternoon creating some really special items for them. Personalized gifts from you to them, even though you don't know who they are! It's going to mean a lot to them to know that you care so much that you use your Crafty powers for Good! We can't change their situation, but these little things will make a big difference, and it starts with you!
Project Details:
We'll be providing the actual materials used to create special tote bags for the kids at the shelter, as well as project instruction and encouragement. Please make sure kids are dressed in craft-friendly clothes, as we can't wait to see what they are inspired to create! We are hoping that you'll contribute art supplies to fill the bags with craft-kits of their own. There are 54 children between both shelters of varying ages, so we'd love an array of items!
- - - 
Haven Hills is an organization that's very close to my heart, and you'll hear why in upcoming posts. If you're interested in hosting an event like this in your community, here's how this one happened:

I guess my little sister isn't so little anymore, but here we are prepping for the workshop!

  1. Find out exactly what your local shelter needs. In our case, the kids at Haven Hills were essentially plucked from their normal lives with little or none of the possessions. When I spoke with their Facilities Manager, he told me that the kids love to do art projects are are always in need of supplies. He also said they don't really have much to call their own. We decided to have kids in our workshop decorate tote bags and fill them with age appropriate art supplies.
  2. Find out about the kids who'll be receiving your donations. While a lot of information is confidential for obvious security reasons, Haven Hills did provide me the age/gender breakdown of the children in residence (ranging from a newborn to 17yrs). I created "age tags" for each child, since we didn't know their names. Yellow tags were for girls, green were for boys. 
  3. Invite families and request donations. Between the two of us, we invited families she knew and families I had taught in the past. Not knowing what kind of turn out to expect, I think we sent Evites to a little over a hundred people. Summer is tricky because a lot of people were on vacation. This was our first time doing this, but next time I could probably be more specific with donation requests. 
  4. Purchase supplies. Deborah, our super mom who hosted this event, generously purchased all the tote bags, stickers, bracelet making supplies, and I went shopping for stencils, sharpies, and markers. Undoubtedly, my favorite purchase was a sticker maker from Michael's that I used to create our own it's the little things name tags for kids in our workshop. 
  5. Get organized and get help. Luckily, my sister returned to town and volunteered to help me with workshop. We really found that, because the kids only knew so much information, they had a lot of questions, "What do I write in the card? Who is this for?" Next time, I'd definitely want to have an adult at each activity section fielding these concerns.
  6. Donations. For as many people attended the workshop bearing donations, half as many dropped off donations ahead of time. I was amazed with how many donations we received from parents who's kids were in camp and couldn't come, but wanted to contribute in some way. We must've collected THREE laundry baskets FULL of art supplies. I was absolutely blown away.

The Workshop
  1. When kids entered the house, we ushered them over to the coffee table. Here, I introduced myself, had them fill out a name tag, and asked them if they knew what we were going to be doing. Often times, they didn't know so I explained the process and why.
  2. Next, I had them pick an "age tag." They could choose to design a bag for a girl or boy and what age. (Having pre-cut and written tags ahead a time made this process a lot easier.) Many kids chose ages close to their own; it seemed they felt a sense of familiarity with the child who would receive the bag.
  3. Then, they walked over to our colorful assortment of tote-bags (that Deborah purchased online) and picked a color bag.
  4. I tied the age tag onto the bag strap, filled their bag with an insert so the ink wouldn't bleed through, and set them up at the tote table.
  5. Here they had sharpies and dot-markers, alphabet and animal stencils, and the freedom to let their own imaginations run wild.
  6. Once they completed the front (and back) of their bags, they took a seat at our card-making table to write a brief note to the child who would receive their bag. We provided them with markers, stickers, glue, glitter, etc. and a little guidance on how to approach writing a card to a stranger. We suggested key phrases like, "I made this bag for you! I hope this makes you smile. Enjoy these art supplies. I like ____, I hope you do too!"
  7. We also set up a bracelet-making table. This was optional and the girls really seemed to enjoy it.
  8. Finally, each kid got to fill their tote bag with art supplies. We tried to help them choose age-appropriate items, and attempted to stack them on the stairs... but let's be real. There. Were. Tote. Bags. Everywhere. It was a glorious chaos. 

The next day (barely able to walk after that five hr workshop), thankfully, a friend volunteered to come over and help me sort through all the bags. First, we divided them by age. Across two rooms, we had piles from age 2 to age 17. Then we went through every single bag double-checking that each had age-appropriate items and enough items. For example, we needed to take the markers, paints, and scissors out of the younger aged bags and we loaded the teenage bags with post-it notes, permanent markers, glitter pens, and duct tape. Every bag had at least five items; ie. crayons, markers, colored pencils, stickers, and a coloring book PLUS glue and pencils (of which we had a LOT).

There were some awesome donations that were better suited for a communal area, so items like an origami kit, glitter paper set, and finger paints were put in a different bag. I had to double check that each child at Haven Hills would receive a bag so we went through the list, by age and gender, checking them off. Each child was accounted for, plus we had a few extra bags and art supplies for any new kids that might join them soon. The next day, I called the Facilities Manager to schedule a drop off and they couldn't believe the effort behind getting these bags to this point.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Brief Belated Birthday Note

I did a lot of thinking these last few days.

I know you see the things that could be better. If I were to ask you if you cared about domestic violence, homelessness, cancer research -- would you say yes? Of course. We chat about these important issues and we have the best of intentions to help. It's easy to share someone else's link on facebook or "regram" someone else's photo if you share those same values and opinions. It's not easy to put your life on hold in order to try to help every single cause that you care about, because there ARE a lot of them, because you have a BIG heart! I totally understand and I'm finding that the purpose of ITLT is to reach YOU.

I guess what being on #TeamITLT means to me is stepping past this first level of consciousness. It means taking small steps away from passive activism towards passionate activism. I'm still discovering exactly what that phrase means, but in my heart, in my gut, I know what it feels like. It means incorporating those values into your lifestyle, practicing them with those you love, and contributing in a meaningful way to a society, a COMMUNITY, that you are a member of. Actively engaging in your own community.

Have we lost that membership sense of community? It belongs to me, I belong to it. I want to be proud of it, and, yes, it is my responsibility to make it something I am proud of. These are all big ideas, big feelings, and may feel like too big of ventures, but I guess my point is that there's something beautiful in the simplicity of it too. It can be little steps, little efforts -- I don't need to say it, but the littlest things can make a big difference. This is where we start, and I'm excited to embark on this path.

As we take these next steps as a small organization, I look forward to getting my hands dirty and really finding how I can best serve my community with the limited skill set I have and the few resources I can offer. For each person, the answers to those questions are so gorgeously unique, it's going to be a stunning discovery, and I hope you share yours with me.

Anyway, thanks for listening... until next time!

Next project coming out soon!!