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
Closing a Door to the Future

Closing a Door to the Future

My name is Sharon Cecil, a resident of Fern Creek for almost 50 years. I am writing regarding the proposed closing of the Fern Creek Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL).

It is my belief, that for many reasons, it makes no sense to close the Fern Creek branch of the LFPL. Statistically, you will be closing the largest youth service provider in the Fern Creek community.  

As an educator, I believe Education is the Key to Understanding.  We need to give the  best opportunities to our  youth if we want to ensure a strong America for their future.  

In order to build a relationship with our youth, it is important to build  trust and cultivate an environment where the youth can tell us what they think.  Youth are the assets for the future of this great nation.  

From what I have heard from the youth in the Fern Creek Community, the youth (and their parents) do not want the Fern Creek Library to close.

Being very involved with multiple organizations over the years, my efforts have been to strive to improve the lives of the people in our community. My personal goal has been to provide hope to those who are marginalized in our society. It is important to give a voice to those who are dealing with adversity.

The Fern Creek community is comprised of diverse populations. For example, there are families in Fern Creek that are highly educated and can’t find jobs because they come from other countries where their credentials are not recognized in this country. The library offers help with writing a resume and resources on how to search for jobs along with support from library staff.

Pre-school and school aged children in the Fern Creek community rely on the library for programming that includes story hour, craft projects and activities from pre-school to teens. The local schools attend the library for field trips. Approximately 40 community organizations utilize the meeting rooms. The library is a Safe Place for children to learn and grow.

Fern Creek Library has a history that dates back to 1937. I have been witness to the changes over the past 5 decades that the library has undergone. In November 1993, when the Fern Creek Library rejoined the LFPL system after being a voluntary initiative housed in the Fern Creek Community Center, those who worked to keep the library open during the interim never thought that the library would ever be closed again.

In 1997, Louisville sent a 10-person delegation to the President’s Summit for America’s Future. The Mayor asked that youth provider organizations make a “commitment for kids” as part of the America’s Promise. As one of those organization members, I made the commitment to the five fundamental resources. They can be seen at the America’s Promise website https://www.americaspromise.org/.  

America's Promise Alliance

Invisible Yet Invaluable part6

Invisible Yet Invaluable part6

Invisible Yet Invaluable

You know who they are.  People who are passionate and committed to helping while encouraging others.  The invisible are invaluable.  They use their talents to let someone else shine. The invisible do not encourage others for accolades.  They do it out of the passion that is in their hearts.    

On November 3, you will be able to meet amazing encouragers and see some of the work that has been done by those that they encourage at the 2018 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited.   

Location                        St Augustine Catholic Church

                                          1310 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40203

Time                               5:30-7:30pm (the Walk of Hope is at 7pm)

Let us introduce you to Surekha Kulkarni, Founder & Executive Director, Beaded Treasures Projectsurekha

Surekha learned the art of jewelry making while on a trip in India and fell in love, which led to teaching a class for students at Jefferson Community College. While volunteering with Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Surekha encountered several women trying to market their handmade jewelry, and she had an idea. She organized a home party for them to sell their work, and within one hour they had sold over $1,000 worth of jewelry!

Beaded Treasures Project began with this small group of dedicated women. Surekha continued teaching more advanced techniques as well as business skills. It wasn’t long before word spread  and more women joined the project. Since 2011, Surekha has taught jewelry making to hundreds of resettled refugee women in Louisville, KY through Beaded Treasures’ “Skills Training Workshops.” 

Invisible Yet  Invaluable part5

Invisible Yet Invaluable part5

Invisible Yet Invaluable

You know who they are.  People who are passionate and committed to helping while encouraging others.  The invisible are invaluable.  They use their talents to let someone else shine. The invisible do not encourage others for accolades.  They do it out of the passion that is in their hearts.    

On November 3, you will be able to meet amazing encouragers and see some of the work that has been done by those that they encourage at the 2018 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited.   

 Location                        St Augustine Catholic Church

                                         1310 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40203

 Time                              5:30-7:30pm (the Walk of Hope is at 7pm)


Let us introduce you to We Survive Volunteer, Dr. Fred Schloemer.

FredI was a troubled child in many ways. I talked non-stop, disobeyed rules, and even set fires for a time. Teachers always told my parents that I was smart and gifted in art, music, and writing. However, they also said that I “didn’t apply myself,” and “didn’t respect authority.” Naturally, hearing myself described that way took a huge toll on my self-esteem.

Later, as a teenager, I would come to understand how my parents’ drinking problems had impacted my behavior when I was younger. I realized then that my childhood acting out had been a cry for help in dealing with a dysfunctional family and home life. At the same time, I also came to understand how I had been literally saved from worsening problems by the support and encouragement of several teachers, extended family members, and adult friends.

These people took a special interest in me and convinced me that I was special. “Yes,” they said, “you are different from other kids, but in a good way.” Realizing how they had uplifted me and my whole life course, I decided I wanted to grow up to one of those adult helpers to other troubled children.

Hoping to be a teacher, I took education courses in college, but the job market for teachers was poor at the time. So, I shifted to studying psychology and sociology and became a clinical social worker. First I worked solely with children, but eventually branched out to adults and seniors, as well. I also achieved my original goal of teaching, at an undergraduate and graduate level.

Now retired due to being diagnosed with cancer four years ago, I can look back on a very satisfying career. For over forty years, I taught, counseled, and did case work for thousands of marginalized people. Volunteering with We Survive and getting to know Sharon, Stephanie, and lots of other talented, committed helpers, has been a welcome extension of my professional career.

I’m glad to be here, and look forward to continuing to be involved with We Survive for years to come.

A Social Entrepreneurial Initiative

A Social Entrepreneurial Initiative

We Survive – Learn and Earn

A Social Entrepreneurial Initiative

Written by Sharon Cecil

2018 was the inaugural year for We Survive’s VOICES – Passport to Art, held at the Mellwood Art and Entertainment Center on March 24, an entertaining and educational event celebrating the power of various art forms to promote health, wellness and healing.   


Much discussion took place after the event regarding ways that momentum will continue regarding this ideology and turning it into an ongoing program. The conversation turned towards health and diet. Someone there recommended the use of a natural health supplement that can be ordered at kratommasters.com. It is something that we may also employ in a future program, although at this time many details still need to be ironed out.

On July 31, Learn and Earn held a Meet and Greet in order to brainstorm on how this initiative can empower people marginalized by illness, abuse-neglect, poverty, hunger, or homelessness while educating participants on how the arts can be a vehicle to personal transformation and positive social change.

There was a brief writing session regarding HOPE followed by an open discussion on how can we best offer HOPE through the Learn and Earn Network utilizing the creative arts.

Another meeting in the next few weeks will give us the structure and strategic components that will lead to the Learn and Earn kick-off.

Knowing that there are many approaches to mental and physical healing, we will be utilizing writing and the creative arts to offer many choices for participants to express him or herself.   

 “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.

Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”  ~Helen Keller~


A Special Thank You to: 

Cathy Upshire – Wellness CoachLearn and Earn

Sharon Cecil, RN – We Survive 

Alison Johnson, MSSW, retired therapist and trainer. 

Dr. Fred Schloemer –  Development Director We Survive 

Diane Corsey – Passport Health Plan

Surekha Kulkarni – Beaded Treasures Project  

Dr. Marlene  Will – Spalding University 

Blue Browning – Our Lady of Peace 

Pastor Carol Wieger –   Mission Behind Bars and Beyond – not in picture

Aaron – Doing the Work

Aaron – Doing the Work

Doing the Work
Written by: Aaron
My name is Aaron and I’m 33 years old. I’m a native Kentuckian, I graduated from high school, and I went to college for five semesters. I’m going to start with the good stuff. Like how Bridgehaven has helped me.
Cognitive Enhancement Therapy is like no other treatment modality. Let me explain what CET is by first explaining what it is not.
When somebody has mental illness, and goes to the doctor, two things are often recommended: medication or talk therapy. CET has no risks or side effects, which the others can have. As a matter of fact, I believe CET is SO safe and effective that it will become the gold standard in treating mental illness.
CET breaks down your brain and rebuilds it, much like exercise. Or joining the Marines, like my grandpa! Breaks you down, builds you up. Your brain actually feels physically sore, a sensation that is veeeery interesting. After several hours of CET on Thursdays, I used to go home and go straight to bed, exhausted.
The commitment is for a year. Our trainers emphasize things like not speaking without raising your hand, and being supportive without being judgmental. We would exercise our brains on the computer before class, then learn a lesson. My worker described it as “watching the gears turn in our heads.” Homework came next. Then I’d talk to my therapist about how the results applied to my life. At the next group, we got feedback from the other members. It was a complete process.
My life has been forever changed by Bridgehaven and Cognitive Enhancement Therapy. CET changed my thinking, my behavior, and my communication skills. It’s also increased my motivation and tolerance, which is called mental flexibility.
Bridgehaven has taught me what emotional safety means. It’s been an absolute leader in advocacy. Bridgehaven has combated stigma, and helped protect me from it.
This is exactly the kind of thing I sought when I came here in the first place. In 2003, a ’76 Buick came into my life and my body and my head. I was ONLY 19.
I was hit from behind. At the time, I didn’t know the damage my brain had sustained. I lost everything within six months:  my job, my insurance, my school… my fraternity, my home, my girlfriend …and most critically, my health.
Prior to the accident, I had been diagnosed with narcolepsy, which causes excessive daytime sleepiness, and cataplexy, which is physical body paralysis triggered by strong emotion. I went a long time without correct diagnosis of a Traumatic Brain Injury.
Having experienced eight years of living hell, my attorney finally won my disability, giving me insurance for the first time since the wreck.  Up until then, I hadn’t been able to see doctors regularly nor receive the appropriate medication. I DID get a referral to Frasier Neuro Rehab, where we finally made the connection between the accident and my pain, grief, and confusion, the last of which was probably the worst.
There’s an additional level of pain to lose everything and have no idea why. I was told I was crazy or lazy. Knowing I had a TBI, I could find the right therapy to FIX it.
Frasier treated me on and off for two years, until a wise case manager took me to BRIDGEhaven. When I arrived here, I took every class I could. I’m an overachiever, so I worked as hard as possible, but I was still struggling. I had a lot of anger outbursts and lack of motivation, which were symptomatic of the TBI, but manifested as emotional issues. They’re very different, and but have a lot of overlap. CET helped me differentiate between the two.
Bridgehaven has inspired me to stand up for the vulnerable, no matter what their illness. It’s been a cultural eye opener for me. I want other members to gain what I have gained. The key to it all is DOING THE WORK. People who are untreated for mental illness have tried a lot of things that DO NOT work. Bridgehaven and CET DO work, and whatever you’re going through emotionally, this place and this therapy can be an answer. 

VOICES – Passport to Art

We Survive’s

VOICES – Passport to Art

March 24, 2018

Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center


The cold weather and rain did not dampen the spirits of those who ventured to the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center (MAEC) on March 24, 2018, to participate in We Survive’s VOICES – Passport to ART kicked off 2018 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited.

Emcee Tara Bassett opened the event with a Fashion Show featuring a spring line of clothes from Just Creations, a not for profit Fair Trade store, and The Farmer’s Daughter Designs. Coordinated by Jacqueline “Blue” Browning and Erica Rhones, Kentucky Pageant titleholders EmmaRae Durbin, Kesley Moorefield, Adrienne Poole, Tiffany Nickleson and Aneisha Cox modeled along with Joey Bohn, Jr.

Interactive activities, acknowledgements and recognitions began with “Sunshine” Joe Mallard who was presented with a plaque from We Survive and recognized as the 2018 Honorary LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Ambassador.  Rev. Doug Meister, Jeffersontown Christian Church was presented with an art piece created during the 2006 ScrumbleThon.  The Scrumble piece honors Tyler Diemer Taylor (1932 – 2018) founder of the Grateful Threads, which is based out of Jeffersontown Christian Church. Master Artisan “Sunshine” Joe Mallard presented the 2017 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Tapestry honoring We Survive’s co-founder, Moody Cecil (1932-2016) to be presented to St. Augustine during the 2018 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited event on November 3.

The event concluded with the creation of an original art piece dedicated to MAEC.  This activity was led by Nevia Greenwell, Licensed Professional Art Therapist and Manager of Activity Therapies at KentuckyOne—Our Lady of Peace.  The unveiling will be announced soon.

HOPE is what keeps challenges from defeating us!

VOICES, a participatory arts and crafts event, showcased local businesses and artisans and allowed participants to learn and understand the importance of art in our society. Exposure to art is vital to individuals in our community who are dealing with poverty, hunger and homelessness. VOICES provided education to participants on how art can be a vehicle for personal transformation and social change. 

Thank you to our supporters:  Mellwood Art Center, Danny Mac Pizza – Mellwood, We Survive-LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited, KentuckyOne—Our Lady of Peace, Bridgehaven Mental Health Services, Just Creations, The Farmer’s Daughter Designs, 502 Power Yoga, Kentucky Yoga Initiative, “Sunshine” Joe Mallard, Lynn Nackson, Dr. Fred Schloemer, Jeffersontown Christian Church-Grateful Threads, and the many artisans and businesses involved with this event. 

A special thanks to all our wonderful volunteers!

We apologize if we have forgotten anyone


Participant comments:

“It turned out beautifully! You could just feel the love in the room.”

“Everyone learned something positive today”

“Thank you ALL so much for giving and sharing it made all the difference.”

“Art Saves Lives”

“What an honor, and what a lovely group of courageous, creative “survivors” I met there! Their stories will inspire me forever.”

Tickets for VOICES

You can now purchase tickets for VOICES – Passport to Art!

Do you believe in Miracles

Do you believe in Miracles

Do you believe in Miracles???

MiraclesHappen” Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.” ~~Roy T. Bennett

Sharon Cecil, Executive Director of We Survive does believe in Miracles.

Several weeks ago, Sharon was on the phone talking with a young woman who had just graduated with her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration. During the conversation, this young woman said that she was looking to find her niche. Sharon shared about We Survive and LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited. While they were talking the young woman took the time to look at the websites. A few days later, this young woman got back with Sharon stating she wanted to explore further opportunities at We Survive.

Her name—MIRACLE
Miracle Howard began working in healthcare when she was in high school. Since graduating with a Master’s Degree in Health Administration in 2017, she plans to begin working on her doctorate. We Survive appealed to Miracle. She said to Sharon, “I would like to work with an organization that offers programming that will change lives while empowering those affected by poverty, hunger and homelessness.”

Being part of the We Survive team Miracle feels that she will be able to explore opportunities in healthcare while utilizing her skills. Miracle enjoyed working as a Life Enrichment Director while in college. The position gave her the opportunity to manage day-to day activities for a Family Care Home. As a liaison between the facility and the outside community, Miracle directed and coordinated the activities of all programs.

Miracle will bring her skills to We Survive in order to expand the health and wellness components of We Survive programming.
WELCOME Miracle Howard, Healthcare Management Coordinator; to the We Survive—LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Team

2018 Miss Gifts for Angels Pageant

2018 Miss Gifts for Angels Pageant

gifts for angelsAs a contender in the Miss Kentucky United States. Erica Rhodes found herself using her crown to make a difference.
Erica says, “The United States Pageants provide life changing experiences and empower delegates to become active in the community while also promoting causes that are meaningful. This system is truly a perfect representation of what I believe pageants are about: using your crown to do the most good and to change lives. This is exactly what I want to do as Miss Kentucky United States.”
In 2012 Erica started an organization called Gifts for Angels. She did this with a purpose to collect toys and funds for children at Kosair Children’s Hospital in memory of her brother who spent his life in the NICU there. She wanted to give back to the hospital who took such great care of her family during their time with her brother.
Erica knew how it felt to sit in the hospital with a family member not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  She thought about how a girl in a crown with a wagon full of toys/ care package items can brighten the days of the children and their families during their rough times in the hospital.
Since 2012, Gifts for Angels has collected funds, thousands of toys, and hundreds NICU care package items for families who stay there.

The 2018 Miss Gifts for Angels Pageant 

Feb 3rd, 2018 

Gifts for Angels was founded in 2012 in memory of Jacobi Hager, Erica Rhodes brother.  Jacobi spent his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Norton Children’s Hospital.

The Gifts for Angels pageant’s purpose is to collect toys and NICU care package items for children and their families at Norton Children’s Hospital in hopes of brightening their days.  Gift cards can be sent in order to purchase items for the care packages.

If you live in the area where the pageant is held, you might want more information on how to become more involved.

For more information visit: