Hope: My Favorite Word

Hope: My Favorite Word

Hope: My Favorite Word

By Sharon Cecil, RN

My  Heart is Full of

 A Gift Of Empowerment

Founded in 1994 by my husband and I, We Survive, Inc. is  a 501(c)(3) non-profit community-based organization providing health and wellness education through innovative programs and events.  

Being cancer experiencers, we wanted to give hope to others.  In 1995, after Byron Crawford wrote an article on We Survive headquarters, it became known as a “Haven of Hope.”  With an emphasis on “Nurturance and Nature,” Day of Hope activities began.

As a Torchbearer for the 1996 Summer Olympics, the youth we had been working with wanted to do something for the community.  In 1997, LIGHTFEST originated at Churchill Downs bringing to life the theme from the 1996 Olympics the Power of the Dream offering inspiration and HOPE.

When  you express Hope innovatively,

you are giving courage for today 

and strength for tomorrow!


LIGHTFEST has been a youth driven event since its origination 25 years ago at Churchill Downs.

LIGHTFEST is a time to come together and bring awareness to the issues accompanied by a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

In the world today, young and old alike can carry a seed of doubt that can make us vulnerable to a sense of Hopelessness and Despair which is permeating our existence, leading to all sorts of mental and medical consequences. With lives and jobs being lost, bleak outlooks are on the rise. It is important for us all to spread this message of hope.

We will continue to Celebrate the 25th LIGHTFEST Anniversary during 2023. During the remainder of 2022 and in 2023, I am asking that everyone around the world help We Survive by being part of the LIGHTFEST Hope Glow movement giving empowerment. #HopeAgiftOfEmpowerment

There is always HOPE

There is always HOPE

Written by Randi Espinoza 6/12/22

Hope  – Feeling of expectation or anticipation of a certain (believed in) future event occurring that causes joyfulness when contemplated.

Hope is that the Reds win the World Series and the Bengals win the Superbowl this year.

Hope is that children of any age, sex, color, gender, ethnicty, or socioeconomic status can go to school without fear of being shot at.

Hope is what is foretold in the Bible about God, Jesus and heaven, and one day being taken there to live in eternal bliss forever. 

Hope is Martin Luther King’s dream.

Hope is being in your darkest hour and knowing the sun will rise again.

Hope is reaching out when depression makes you want to retreat, and someone to be there for you to talk to and to help you through.  

Hope is when the world tells you you can’t, you find a way that you can, and when the world mistreats you, respond with love, spreading hope to others.  

Hope is love.

Hope is 3 years without cutting, and the ability to resist when the urge comes.

Hope is belonging, having a family, a home, and food to eat,  

Hope is being off the streets and safe.

Hope is liberation from sex trafficing and prostitution.

Hope is beating addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Hope is the possibility of healing and miracles.

Hope is after 24 years of having MRIs to track my Multiple Sclerosis progression, this MRI will show nothing; My brain will be free of plaques (lesions) and scarring. 

There is always hope.

Author Randi Espinoza

Lighting the World with Hope – Volunteer Opportunities

Lighting the World with Hope

Our Mental Health is important to our overall health and wellbeing.  By having conversations and creating activities that stress the importance of our Mental Health we can eradicate the stigma and shame associated with mental Illness.

In the world today, a sense of Hopelessness is permeating our existence, leading to all sorts of mental and medical consequences. With lives and jobs being lost, bleak outlooks are on the rise. It is important for us to all to spread the message of hope.

Volunteers are encouraged to host an event that:

  • brings worldwide awareness to the importance of hope.
  • opens doors to educate on mental health and the importance of our overall health and wellness.
  • engages your community

Ideas for events:

Sports Activities “Purposeful Physical Play“‘

  • Basketball games
  • Ping Pong tournaments
  • Other sports games
  • etc.

Creative Arts “Clever Cathartic Creativity”

  • Painting Murals
  • Creative Writing workshops
  • Growing Plants
  • Sewing Quilts
  • Music Concerts
  • etc.

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow”.  ~~Kurt Vonnegut 

Social Media Support

  1. Share the message of Hope on your own Social Media Account
  2. LIKE, FOLLOW, SHARE, REPOST, Re-TWEET, COMMENT on pictures and stories shared
  3. When posting to social media please use hashtag #HopeAgiftOfEmpowerment and tag us 

Together, giving #HopeAgiftOfEmpowerment, we can change people’s lives by showing them there is HOPE in these trying times.

Scouting a Path to Golden Years

Scouting a Path to Golden Years

Scouting a Path to Golden Years

By Sharon Cecil

When I moved to Louisville in 1969, I thought it was a temporary situation but Louisville has been my home ever since.  At that time, I also didn’t know that Girl Scouts would become an important part of my life. An organization that influenced who I have become; where I learned about the gift of working with youth and found opportunities to mentor future leaders.

In 1972, having just moved into a new house, not knowing anyone and pregnant, I passed a note in church to a teen sitting behind me asking, “Do you babysit?”   This led to meeting the Osborne family, a family of eight (parents, 5 girls and 1 boy).  The five girls were pretty much the only babysitters my daughter ever knew. Nola Osborne was not only a mother, she was an active member of the community and lived right around the corner.  I looked to her as my mentor.  

Nola introduced me to Girl Scouting.  In 1974, I became her co-leader for Girl Scout Troop 77.  From the beginning, working with these young girls became an important part of who I am.  A turning point for me was during the April 3, 1974 meeting when we had taken the girls to the park. My daughter was at Nola’s house with two of her daughters.  All of a sudden, the sky became dark, there was a strange stillness, the sirens were blaring and the wind began to pick up more and more. I was scared. Nola knew what to do and made it feel like an adventure.  At this moment in time,  “the Louisville Metro Area experienced part of the worst tornado outbreak in United States history.” ~~ Courier Journal  

Nola was calm, confident and reassuring that we would ALL be Safe! WE were!!!

When my daughter became a Brownie in Girl Scouts, I took over the Troop and worked with the girls until 1985.  Then, I transitioned to advocacy with involvement in committees and being a part of new initiates for girls while returning to college.  I received an art degree and successfully became an RN while battling breast cancer over the next 5 years.  

In 1990, I began doing community wellness programming for the American Cancer Society and Kentucky Cancer Program in the high schools while continuing my advocacy with Girl Scouting with their pilot program “Growing Up Female,” a part of the Kentuckiana Girl Scout Program Box.  I mentored young women who were working to achieve their Silver, Bronze and Gold Awards.

1994 was a big milestone for my husband Moody and I, when we co-founded We Survive (a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization) creating a Haven of Hope for young people and families providing activities that centered around Creative Expression.  http://wesurvive.org/creative-expression/

WOW (Women Offering Wisdom)  Program

As we developed We Survive, in 1996, I met Girl Scout Troop 1472.  At the age of 11, these young women were looking for a Silver Award Project and successfully started We Survive’s WOW Program while  achieving their Girl Scout Silver Award.  Nikki (Sherrard) Corbett and Brittany Zinzious-Kinder  took a leadership role and continued to be involved with WOW until they graduated high school.  They continue to have a voice until this day.

Sharon (Wells) McKean WOW Team Member says, “We Survive’s programming provided tools that helped us (Women Offering Wisdom) create transformational and inspirational societal changes with our health and wellness educational programs.  Writing, art, publishing and creating media pieces (magazines, books, pamphlets, press releases, etc.) was a wonderful learning opportunity. These experiential activities helped me become a more effective communicator and leader.”   Sharon is now a business leader in her community.

To help the girls become stronger communicators, they were each given a copy of POSITIVE POWERFUL PROMOTIONAL WORDS a tremendous resource tool for writers and speakers.

On Sunday, October 29, 2000. Girl Scout Troop 169 had a kick-off event for their Gold Award, at We Survive’s  headquarters creating a “Pink Path to Gold.”  Once the path was completed, each girl worked independently on their own project.  http://www.wesurvive.org/WOW/pinkpathtogold.htm 

Laura Adams wrote, “What the Gold Means to Me” stating, “After all, Girl Scouts are about more than just selling cookies!.”  http://www.wesurvive.org/WOW/whatthegoldmeanstome.htm

The Golden Years
Having reached what people call your Golden Years, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with We Survive or LIGHTFEST (an annual event promoting HOPE).  Then, a young woman reminded me how important it is to continue to give voice to our youth and empower them to be whatever it is they want to be in life. 

In July, 2019, Olivia Bohler sent me an email stating she wanted to obtain service learning hours for National Honor Society (NHS) during LIGHTFEST Re-ignited (We Survive’s Flagship worldwide annual event) and create a project that would be suitable for her Girl Scout Gold Award. http://wesurvive.org/our-struggle-built-the-story/

Olivia started volunteering with We Survive in the 1st grade.  Now entering her senior year, she is still a very dedicated volunteer evidenced by the partnership she created with We Survive to complete her NHS service learning hours and the completion of her Girl Scout Gold Award with 2020 LIGHTFEST. http://lightfestreignited.info
Olivia obtained her NHS hours  November 2019  http://wesurvive.org/finding-light-in-the-shadow-of-poverty-hunger-and-homelessness/nggallery/thumbnails
Olivia completed her dream of the Gold November 7, 2020   http://wesurvive.org/did-the-pandemic-shrink-our-sphere/
The Gold Award was approved on December 3, 2020.  
Believing that offering opportunities for our youth provides a platform to promote health and wellness experiential learning so they can realize the Power of their Dreams, I will continue to provide Hope and Inspiration. Hope – a Gift of Empowerment

Did the Pandemic Shrink Our Sphere

Did the Pandemic Shrink Our Sphere

Did the Pandemic Shrink Our Sphere

LIGHTFEST Reignited November 7, 2020

Written by Sharon Cecil

When we aren’t facing a pandemic, We Survive normally holds a kickoff in Louisville for the LIGHTFEST Reignited global event the first Saturday of November.  http://lightfestreignited.info/

Despite COVID, we took advantage of the many ways you can reach out to others and share hope because We Survive’s LIGHTFEST Reignited believes #HopeHasNotBeenCancelled.

We Survive learned that we could keep LIGHTFEST alive inviting people to complete acts of kindness through service and symbolism all day.  Utilizing VolunteerMatch, we garnered volunteers to help by promoting on social media accounts for several months before the event which was held on November 7, 2020.

In Louisville, there usually is an in-person event with activity stations where participants are offered  instructions on how to make items along with healthful education presentations.  You can view LIGHTFEST 2019 at the following link:  http://wesurvive.org/finding-light-in-the-shadow-of-poverty-hunger-and-homelessness/nggallery/thumbnails

Olivia Bohler, a senior in high school, took up the initiative to make sure the 2020 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited event happened.  She had planned to work one-on-one with the women from a local homeless shelter to teach sustainable skills such as jewelry making and arm-knitting that could help them to turn it into a way to raise money through a learn and earn process.  

In 2020, this was no longer viable amid the pandemic. There was no way to ensure safe conditions that followed the guidelines within the city of Louisville.  A virtual option was not available for instruction for the women on Google Meets or Zoom due to the lack of computer access within the homeless shelters. 

In order to fulfill her goal, Olivia created “Hope Toolboxes” for members of the homeless community of Louisville where she collected items donated by different groups in Louisville that would have a substantial impact.  Resource material was included in the Hope Toolbox such as job attire and hygiene items so they work to get out of their situation. Adding on, in the Hope Toolbox, were resource pamphlets that detail job tips such as where to find jobs in the area, what to wear to the interview, interview practice questions, language to use, and an overall idea of what to expect. There are plans for this project to remain sustainable.

To see Olivia’s How to for the Hope Toolboxes, click here.

For her efforts, Olivia was named We Survive’s 2020 Youth Ambassador.

Thank you to all who made LIGHTFEST 2020 possible.




When we aren’t facing a pandemic, We Survive normally holds a kickoff for LightFEST Reignited the first Saturday of November, to keep the spirit alive we would like to show many examples of people completing acts of kindness and service all day on our social media accounts.

Despite COVID, there are many ways you can reach out to others and share hope because as the theme LightFEST 2020 says #HopeHasNotBeenCancelled. Use one of the ideas below (or one of your own) to let those in your community know they are remembered.

Here is a list of activities that you can do safely at home:

  1. Say thank you – Write a thank you note to healthcare providers, food bank volunteers, teachers, etc. Note: Check to see if the organization will accept the physical copy by mail or if you should scan/email them copies of these instead. Be creative and say thank you to anyone who is on the “front lines” helping keep everyone safe or supplied.
  1. Make homemade bookmarks which you can later donate to your local library. Here are some ideas to get you started: https://homesthetics.net/diy-bookmarks/
  1. Combat loneliness by writing a letter, drawing a picture or starting a story – Send these to assisted living facilities, hospitals, residential treatment centers for kids or other similar organizations. For the story, you can also include a stamped envelope so that they can add to the story and send it back to you. Note: Check to see if the organization will accept the physical copy by mail or if you should scan/email them copies of these instead.
  1. Make pet toys or shelters to donate to shelters – Did you know you can make dog toys with household items? Here’s an idea to get you started: https://barkpost.com/answers/how-to-make-a-t-shirt-dog-toy/ DIY Cat Shelters https://alleycatadvocates.org/communitycat-care-center/
  1. Make self-care, first aid or birthday kits to be donated to homeless shelters.
  1. Tutor others – If possible, stay connected with other students and offer to help tutor your peers in subjects you excel in virtually. You are probably a rock star in a subject someone else might need help in. Starting an online study group is a way to stay connected while helping others. 

No one is limited to these tasks, but we wanted to provide you with some safe ideas for volunteering at home. If you need help finding organizations to donate to, let us know at lightfest@wesurvive.org.

Post a video or a photo and tag us @lightfestreignited and use the hashtag #hopehasnotbeencancelled. We would also appreciate a follow on our accounts and any help to get the word out about our organization. 

A Special Thank you to:

Olivia Bohler – working toward Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scout Council – https://www.gssjc.org/


LightFEST Reignited 2020

LightFEST Reignited 2020

Finding Light in the Shadow of Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness

Finding Light in the Shadow of Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited November 2, 2019

Written by Sharon Cecil

We Survive celebrated their 25th Anniversary on November 2, during LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited’s CELEBRATION of HOPE.

People were out and about around the globe

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited keeps us UNITED.

*GO LIGHT YOUR WORLD was the theme for LIGHTFEST Reignited held at St. Augustine Catholic Church on a brisk, bright Autumn Saturday. 

Education and awareness was provided for attendees on the issues facing those vulnerable to poverty, hunger and homelessness while participating in various activities including health and wellness activities.   

There was a diverse group of participants involved in this event.   

Heartfelt appreciation to Joni Jenkins and the House of Representatives – Commonwealth of Kentucky for the Citation Honoring and Commemorating We Survive and LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited in Louisville, KY – “offering sincere congratulations to all those associated with LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited upon this notable occasion and in extending best wishes for the future success and good fortune of this community event.”

Sponsor—Passport Health Plans

Host—St. Augustine Catholic Church


THANK YOU Volunteers/Volunteer Organizations

Diane Corsey – Passport Health Plans – Blankets for our homeless guests

Jacqueline Browning – Yoga

502 Power Yoga 

Angelique Shah – Yoga

Bronx Girl Yoga

DuPont Manual Students – diverse activities including soccer 

National Honor Society

Key Club

Soccer teams

Olivia Bohler – Manual National Honor Society Representative – arm knitting activity

Ashrith Garimella – Manual Key Club Representative, soccer player – coordinated activities 

Brad DeZern – coordinated Last Days Motorcycle Ministry

Last Days Motorcycle Ministry – set up, distributed food, coordinated/monitored youth, face  painting and other activities

Sunshine Joe Mallard Tapestry Artisan – LIGHTFEST Ambassador – tapestry demonstration

Carol Balogh – Enrichment Activities, LLC, art activity

Stacy Burks – ATA Nursing Instructor

ATA Nursing Students – health screenings, cake walk

Michelle Wolf

Matt Wolf

Sharon Moody

Roosevelt Fenelus – NuLou – helped with LIGHT YOUR WORLD karaoke LIGHTFEST conclusion

NuLou – website promotion


In case we have missed anyone, please know we appreciate your support.


Handstands for Homelessness

Handstands for Homelessness

By Jacqueline Blue Browning, RN, BSN


Handstands of Hope was born from the memory of being a child in Los Angeles living amongst the gang violence, drug epidemic, riots etc. Every now and then someone or a group would come from the outside world and share a view of a different world, a different way of living and it always gave me hope, whether that was a traveling performing group or a motivational speaker, these individuals somehow provided that feeling of hope and I continued to dream.

Yoga has been instrumental in my healing journey and my mental health. When I entered a handstand challenge via 502 Power Yoga last year in the summer of 2018, it transformed me and my world. At last year’s Lightfest Reignited, I shared yoga with the kids who were there and their eyes lit up when I shared wheel and other yoga poses. The children opened up to conversation and very much enjoyed moving their bodies and exploring the world via yoga, can’t wait to do it again this year. 


handstands2Working with WeSurvive has provided me the opportunity to share and give back to our community via Lightfest Reignited, Day of Hope and all the wonderful events We Survive creates with love. 

As a psychiatric nurse for Our Lady of Peace I am very proud to serve our patients and community. Currently at Eastern Kentucky University I look forward to completing the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program so that I may continue to serve our community via a holistic healing approach including art therapy, yoga and so much more.


Our struggle Built the Story

Our struggle Built the Story

Our struggle built the story

Sharon and Moody Cecil 

by Sharon Cecil

We met, became best friends, and eventually married.  Our life’s struggles became our story, filled with passion and compassion to help.  We created so many programs that helped others as well as helping us heal.  Our love grew through our struggles.   Our careers gave us the ability to promote Heath and Wellness.  We Survive will celebrate 25 years at LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited on Nov. 2 sharing a Light of HOPE. 

You + Me = We Survive –25th Anniversary.

imageEveryone has dreams. Some dreams are forgotten. Others are never forgotten but never see a follow through.

Moody Cecil had a dream that led to the creation of We Survive in 1994. Blending our talents, Moody focused on nature and Sharon Cecil created Women Offering Wisdom in 1996.

January 2019– Life brought us to it “Nurturance in nature brought us through it”

Moody Cecil has provided a guiding light since he passed away in December, 2016, while I have taken several years to reflect, restore and renew.  Knowing I wanted to keep the legacy alive, I wasn’t sure what that would look like although LIGHTFEST continued to be the mainstay for We Survive through the transition. 

croppedIn July, 2019, Olivia Bohler sent me an email stating, “You may remember my mom, we used to help out with the Day of Hope on the farm and LIGHTFEST at the church in downtown Louisville… I am looking for an organization to partner with for my National Honor Society (NHS) Project as well as my Girl Scout Gold Award.”  In that moment, as I read her email, I could feel the passion for working with youth filling the empty void that once was the “fire in my belly.”

Olivia and I worked together on her learning how to arm knit for her NHS project. She acquired the necessary amount of hours to meet her NHS requirement.  As we moved forward towards her Girl Scout Award, Olivia wanted to put together Hope Bags for the homeless that include various necessary supplies such as toiletries (soap, tooth brush, tooth paste, deodorant) and items to keep them warm (gloves  hats and socks).  Also, Olivia decided to include arm knitted scarves, which are warm, useful and not to large for her first Hope Bags. Making arm knitted scarves was something that she could make and also teach the recipients to make one which they could either keep for themselves or give to someone else.   

By We Survive partnering with Olivia with her NHS project and Girl Scout Gold Award, it was a reminder of what a young woman wrote years ago. “We Survive’s WOW programming provided tools that helped us create transformational and inspirational societal changes with our health and wellness educational programs.  Writing, art, publishing, radio interviewing/moderating and creating media pieces (magazines, books, pamphlets, press releases, etc.) was a wonderful learning opportunity. We learned the importance of gathering creditable information from various sources through interviews and research allowing us to develop our own educational opinions on various topics while enabling us to share valuable information with our community. These experiential activities helped me become a more effective communicator and leader.” ~~ Sharon McKean 

We Survive is looking forward to Olivia’s plan to sustain her project by offering others the opportunity to help her.   They will be creative while meeting new people. Classes will encourage women to make arm knitted scarves or other artistic items so that they can “Learn to Earn.”  

Happy 25th Anniversary We Survive.  Celebrating LIGHTFEST 2019

Red & Yellow Border Invitation