Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Letters of Love, 2015: #igiveyoustrength

Almost a year ago, I started ITLT on a whim. I got the idea on a Tuesday and launched the website on Friday. Our first project was “Letters of Love,” and it gives me butterflies to be doing it again a year later.
Teaching children has forced me into being as concise and engaging as possible in a short amount of time. As soon as I stray, they get distracted, so I try to stick to the important information. After having taught this lesson to my students six times, here's my well-rehearsed project pitch:

The Pitch

A looong time ago (okay, like twenty years), I started performing in musical theatre. Singing, dancing, acting in plays, I made a lot of friends and one of them was Kyle Hanagami. Now, we’re all grown up and Kyle is a choreographer. (Do we remember what a choreographer is? Yes, someone who puts a bunch of movements together to create and then teach a dance.) Kyle’s dances are so awesome that is he is actually an international choreographer. (What do I mean when I say ‘international?’ Yes, he has friends and dance students all around the world.) 

Well, two years ago, Kyle started a project called “Letters of Love.” This is not a letter that reads: “Dear So-and-so, I love you soOoOoOo much…” (Pause for giggling) This is more of a letter of support, a letter of kindness. We are going to write letters of love and send them to Kyle. Now, why is Kyle collecting letters? He wants to count them! Why? Because for every 10 letters, Kyle donates $1 to cancer research. (Raise your hand if you know what I mean when I say ‘cancer’ or ‘cancer research.’) Cancer is a terrible illness that unfortunately affects a lot of people. It can affect different parts of the body and there’s no real cure to end cancer yet. We need doctors and scientists to try to discover a cure, and that can only happen if they have funding for that research. In two years, Kyle has collected over 30,000 letters of love from people all around the world. That’s $3,000.00 to cancer research! I’m not asking you to put a dollar in your card, I’m just asking that you make a card. (Then I asked them a bunch of math questions that end in us figuring out that 240 students will result in a whole $24!) By doing this one creative little thing, you are contributing to help find a cure for cancer! (Pause for 'wow's) It sounds like a stretch, but Kyle is doing what he can to help, and you are doing what you can. Kyle is going to collect, count, and then send all these letter to people who need a little more love. If someone is stuck at a hospital with cancer, I can bet these cards would make a big difference to them, don't you think?

The Project

I went on to explain the project: how they can create different types of cards, how their letter is for someone they don’t know, suggestions for what to write in their letter. A lot of people don’t know exactly how to write a “letter of love” – what does that even mean? We tried to keep it super positive. Some of my favorites were:

“Sending lots of love from our class to you”
“You are the music of my heart”
‘You are stronger than you seem”

What I didn’t share with my students was how I’m personally affected by cancer. I didn’t share with them how Kyle is affected by cancer. In fact, after two years of doing this project out of out the goodness of his heart, Kyle shared with all of us just how exactly he's going to personally benefit from our letters this year. Watch the video to meet Kyle and hear from him. The choreography is beyond amazing. Even after watching this choreography six times while teaching the project, I could watch it a hundred more.  

An excerpt from the first ITLT blog post:
"It is exactly the goal of it's the little things to bring awareness to important causes like this, so we shall start by sharing the amazing stuff these guys have already set in motion. Your first little project, if you chose to accept it, is to write a letter of love and send it to Kyle. Get creative, get crafty, but most importantly, write from the heart. I cannot WAIT to find out how many letters he'll receive this year!!"

I second it all.

Send your letters of love to:

P.O. Box 6339

North Hollywood, CA 91603


Fun fact: Cinematically, I wanted my students to realize that this choreography was all captured in one continuous shot -- no editing. When the third dancer appeared, I said, "how did she get there?!" One student, audibly whispered, "she's an angel." I almost lost it. In another class, I asked, "where did these new dancers come from?!" A quiet student said, "From heaven." Doubly #downforthecount.

Last year's letters benefited an incredible organization, Cuck Fancer; this year, all proceeds are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society so be sure to check out Kyle's efforts so far here.

The Video

Our Letters

Previous letters from last year can be viewed here and here.

Your heart is strong!
 Hello gorgeous! I love you!
 Lots of love from our class to you!
This is for you. Sending love from our class to you. 
You're great just the way you are!

 You are the music of my heart.

Share your photos with us on Instagram:
@itsthelittlethingsdotme #TeamITLT