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:


Welcoming Erica

Welcoming Erica

erikaWelcoming Erica Rhodes to the We Survive Team


Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.  ~~ Harriet Tubman


College student Erica Rhodes contacted We Survive wanting to be part of a team that inspires Hopes and Dreams.  She wrote, “I am interested in an opportunity to be a part of helping change the lives of impoverished children.”  When we talked she loved the idea LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited and shining a Light of Hope around the world while bringing awareness to poverty, hunger and homelessness.  Erica will be part of a LIGHTFEST event in March 2018


In 2012 Erica started an organization called Gifts for Angels, with the purpose to collect toys and funds for children at Norton Children’s Hospital in memory of her brother who spent his life in the NICU. Erica says, “I wanted to give back to the hospital who took such great care of my family during our time with my brother Jacobi Hager.”


Erica founded Gifts for Angels, “because I know how it feels to sit in the hospital with a family member not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I wanted to brighten the days of the children and their families during their rough times”.


For more information about Gifts for Angels



Love Lights Story

Love Lights Story

The Love Lights Story

by Annie Justice

20170928951555001I began embellishing candles over 20 years ago at the request of my mother in law. She asked me to make a memorial candle for her daughter’s wedding to light in memory of her son. This was an honor for me to be considered for the task. After making that first candle, other requests poured in over the years. I have crafted candle sets for weddings and memorial candles for funerals. A year and a half ago, I gave a candle to my sister after her son’s passing. She shared with me how much comfort that this gift has brought to her as she continues to light it up each evening. Something I discovered through the years is that the lighting of memorial candles during family gatherings are also a wonderful way to remember our beloved and how powerful they can be in the healing of grief. 20170928951555581I name my creations “Love Lights” as these creations touch my heart and are created out of love. Because I like to spread words of encouragement and meaning as well, I create candle sets for meditation , gift giving and home decor.  Items are available for purchase at Kim’s Pickins on Fegenbush Lane in Louisville, KY.  Special orders are always welcome and local delivery is available.



Love Lights Broadway

Love Lights Broadway

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited 2017

November 4, 2017


Love Lights Broadway

Louisville, Kentucky

St. Augustine Catholic Church


As LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Ambassador Heather French Henry says, “Poverty knows no barriers, it has touched us all. Stay strong. Today is your choice. Be the one who determines your future. No matter how hard it gets, you can survive.”


proclamation 2017On a Beautifully Bright Autumn Day, LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited once again brought education and awareness to communities regarding issues faced by those vulnerable to poverty, hunger and homelessness while providing activities for all that attended.

There was educational information from health providers, there was face painting, jewelry making and other crafts along with puppeteers, rappers from a Portland Youth Center.

Annie Justice shared her creative candle embellishing talents for the Love Lights. Sunshine Joe Mallard designed a tapestry piece for LIGHTFEST 2017. Children added their creative artistic touches for an original “Sunshine” Joe creation. This tapestry will be unveiled in March 2018.

There was a diverse group of participants including those within the homeless community that took part in the Light of Hope Walk. A talented young man agreed to walk with Brad DeZern leading the walk as they sang the song—This Little Light of Mine.

Sponsor—Passport Health Plans

Host—St. Augustine Catholic Church



Puppeteers—College Heights UMC Puppet Team

Debbie Lewis

Girl Scout Troop 476 Jacqueline McMillian-Bohler

Jacqueline Browning

Kentucky One Health—Our Lady of Peace

Jacqueline Browning

Last Days Motorcycle Ministry

Brad DeZern

Linda Young

Matthew Simons—Simons Electric

Paulette Stinnett


Jason Reynolds

Annie Justice

Sunshine Joe Mallard Tapestry Creation

Michelle Wolf

Matt Wolf

Sharon Moody

Hometown Pizza

Diane Corsey


In case we have missed anyone, please know we appreciate your help. To read more about the event and to see pictures go here.

We Survive – Hurricane Harvey Relief

We Survive – Hurricane Harvey Relief

labor of love

We Survive Hurricane Harvey Relief

We Survive is aware that Hurricane Harvey brought storms, tornadoes, record rainfall and flooding to communities in Texas and Louisiana.

The needs will change daily, weekly and monthly for those recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, We Survive is joining with St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Missouri City, Texas—a suburb of Houston, Texas.

We Survive is asking that you donate Gift Cards that will help those in need to get their basic needs of food, clothing and repairs for shelter.

Kroger, WalMart, Target, and Lowe’s have stores in the areas where support is needed.

You can send your gift card to:

We Survive

P.O. Box 91401

Louisville, Ky 40291

Attn: Hurricane Harvey

Together We Will Change Lives!!

This collection will continue through the month of September.

September is Hunger Action Month

Plan now to make September 2017 a time to stand together against hunger.

Join We Survive in supporting hurricane relief efforts in Texas. The goal of National Hunger Action Month is to create a movement throughout September that has a real and lasting impact on the issue of hunger in our communities.


            WE SURVIVE  (502) 558-8317                   

            St. Angela Merici Catholic Church  (713) 306-0583