Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Written by Sharon Cecil

hearthandcrystalballIn July 2012 I wrote, “Are You Part of a Sandwich Family,” discussing the complexity of the family unit due to the fact that multi-generations live under the same roof, often referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.”  We are like a sandwich.  The top and bottom pieces of bread representing birth and death.  In the middle you find the Heart of the Matter…LIFE.

With the proper plan, materials and tools we build a house or construct a highway.  When it comes to a better life, there are no blueprints or guarantees to pave the way to a perfect life.

We have health problems, financial issues, difficult relationships and much more that will crop up.  It is important that we learn from our past, experience today so we can dream for a better future.

Are You Part of a Sandwich Family,” talks about,   “As we age, family becomes more important.  We want to spend more time with our children.  For some, we find it feasible to join resources and move in together so that life can be simpler—parents helping out with the grandchildren, expenses, etc.”

If you watch or listen to the news, you are hearing about jobs that are going unfilled because of the lack of qualified people.  They say that this is because of a “shortage on tech talent.”  Then a few days ago, ITT Technical Institute’s closed all of their schools.

Before you know it, the “Sandwich Generation” becomes more complex.  It can make it even more complicated to deal with your life journey if your family doesn’t get along or there are complex issues.  Those of you who are old enough may remember the Walton’s, a long running TV Series about a family that worked together, worked things out and they thrived.

Due to not being able to find employees for skilled jobs, we will be seeing more and more “Sandwich Generation” households.  Filling healthcare positions is a huge concern, especially nursing.  In Louisville, Kentucky, on August 24, 2016, WHAS TV reported 2,000 nurses needed as shortage hits Kentuckiana,  “Nationwide there is a nursing shortage and KentuckianaWorks estimates there are more than 2,000 nurses needed in Kentuckiana alone.”

Growing up, I lived within a family unit that was continually disrupted.  There was continual drama and trauma.  By the time I graduated from high school, I didn’t feel very hopeful about life or the future.  Then, a minister said to me, that I had two choices, continue the turmoil or find peace in my life.  I decided that I wanted to find peace.  It sounded so easy.  Although I tried to keep my eye on the target, I can say that I missed the mark more than a few times.

Deciding to work with children and families was a lifetime commitment for my husband and I after we got married.  In 1994, we started working with families dealing with poverty, hunger and homelessness.

My husband had a vision and wanted to share it with everyone along with his belief that “nurturance in nature” is healing.  Not to say that there weren’t rough patches along the way, the path we took has been most rewarding.  People of all ages have been given the opportunity to share their stories of inspiration and hope.

As our journey winds down, I have been given the honor to share precious inspirational moments everyday with my husband as we travel our journey with dementia.

Several years ago, a precocious 4-year-old homeless girl informed a group of us, “When you have HOPE you’re HAPPY!”

I feel HOPE is the Heart of the Matter.

We would love for you to share a message of inspiration and HOPE.  For more information about Portrayals of Hope contact us at

Louisville African Heritage Festival

Louisville African Heritage Festival

Louisville African Heritage Festival

Written by: Sharon Cecil

With a shared interest in our youth, Sunshine Joe Mallard will once again working with LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited  “to heightened awareness of those who live in poverty, susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness and help to Improve Impoverished Lives.”

AHFestivalSupport Sunshine Joe Mallard and please attend the Louisville African Heritage Festival on August 26th & 27th. It will be a celebration of unity, culture, art and history across the African Diaspora.

Opening Ceremonies will be Friday, August 26 from 7-9pm, at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage with a cultural reception featuring the art of quilter Sunshine Joe Mallard, performances by the artists of Roots & Wings, refreshments and more!

To find out more, visit this site.


Hope–Spiritual Food and Medicine for the Mind

Hope–Spiritual Food and Medicine for the Mind

Hope–Spiritual Food and Medicine for the Mind

by Sharon Cecil
As a cancer survivor, I had to keep HOPE in my Heart in order to
survive.  I was continually staying busy.  I developed the motto
“Purposeful Living is the Best Preparation for Dying.”

My husband and I were continually looking for projects to be involved
which brought us to co-founding We Survive.  I received a reminder
from Dr. Joe Pecoraro, “Form habits that feed your success and not
your failure.”

Thank you  for this thought provoking message.

MindSuccess (1)

I am a firm believer that HOPE is not only Spiritual Food, but also
medicine for the mind.

Olympic Torch Relay Generates Enthusiasm — Now and Then

Olympic Torch Relay Generates Enthusiasm — Now and Then

Olympic Torch Relay Generates Enthusiasm — Now and Then

Written by Sharon Cecil


olympic torch relayThe Olympic Torch Relay is a ceremonial event focused on the Olympic Flame traveling from Olympia, Greece, to the site of the Olympic Games via a torch from person to person until it reaches its destination.

This is the 31st Olympiad. The Torch Relay is coming to an end and the Summer Olympic Games will begin Friday, August 5, in Rio.

A lot of work goes into preparing for the Olympic Games.

For the athletes, it is a daily commitment to a rigid regime. Athletes do everything they can to excel in their field.  Reaching the Olympic Games is every athlete’s dream.  It requires an enormous amount of practice, skill and determination working with coaches and trainers as well as a rigorous schedule. Not to mention the financial investment!  There is no guarantee that any of this will mean they will be an Olympian.

Wherever the Olympic Games are located, there is an inordinate amount of planning, preparation and coordination.

It seems that there has been little coverage for this year’s Olympics in Rio and almost no coverage on the participants. Or it might seem that way because the 1996 Olympics holds a special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.

20th Anniversary

In a New York Times Magazine article published SUNDAY, July 7, 1996: The Olympics; Atlanta Needs Flame! Notes From a Long Torch Trip “In 60 years of Olympic torch relays, never have so many carried fire so far.”

Being a torchbearer for the 1996 Summer Olympics, my husband and I attended several events before the actual arrival of the flame in Louisville, Kentucky.  At one event, we were able to meet Muhammad Ali.

During its journey, the flame was to cross the bridge from Indiana to Kentucky. The excitement was mounting on the evening of June 5th in Louisville, Kentucky as everyone waited with great anticipation for the arrival of the flame at the Riverfront Plaza-Belvedere.  There were some eventful moments.  But the flame arrived safely.

Muhammad Ali, Louisville native, lit the Cauldron 20 years ago during the opening ceremonies.

In an interview on WSBTV-Atlanta, Billy Payne, who headed Atlanta’s Olympic organizing committee said, “The Olympic movement is the only thing in the world that brings together so many people of diverse races, religions, ethnicities and economic statue. It’s such a celebration of sport. And who better to stand at the top of that mountain than Muhammad Ali, because that’s what he represented throughout his life,” The incredible UNTOLD story of Muhammad Ali and the 1996 Olympic Flame

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited is born from the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay.  Everyone can help IMPROVE IMPOVERISHED LIVES and provide HOPE to encourage the POWER of Dreams.

WorldIlluminatedStep out to illuminate the world by displaying a Light of Hope wherever you are on November 5, 2016, at 6pm Eastern Time.  It can be a porch light, candle, cell phone, or flashlight. Join others around the world in celebrating the LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited movement!

Hope and Healing from Sunshine

Hope and Healing from Sunshine

Hope and Healing from Sunshine

Written by Sharon Cecil

There is no doubt about it.  We are like bears, hibernating in the winter waiting for springs lavish colors from nature’s pallet breaking out into full bloom, as the days are longer while enjoying the warmth and glow of sunshine.

I remember hearing the voices and laughter as the children in the neighborhood would play outside.  With all of the electronic devices and both parents working or being part of a single parent household, the sound of the children outside is a rarity.

Advocating for youth, We Survive has been able to bring sunshine to the life to an under-served population through intergenerational connections.

I have created programming for all ages for over 40 years.  These programs encourage people to believe in themselves and dare to DREAM.

Creating youth driven programming for We Survive has offered an extreme amount of joy in my life. Youth were instrumental in the creation of LIGHTFEST, originating in 1997 as a Festival held at Churchill Downs from 1997 to 2001.  As Bill Wolfe wrote in the Courier-Journal on March 24, 1997, “Festival radiates light, hope, dreams and Olympic spirit.”

Sunshine8493I was first introduced to “Sunshine” Joseph Mallard’s artwork in 2005. In November 2006, “Sunshine” Joe was part of We Survive’s month long activities for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness. It all started on November 3, with a tapestry/needle art exhibit.

In collaboration with Wayside Christian Mission, “Sunshine “Joe” Mallard’s tapestries were featured at Expressions Gallery (Wayside Christian Mission’s Art Gallery).  There were handcrafted items made by Jeffersontown Christian Church—Grateful Threads. Also, items created by clients served by Wayside Christian Mission were also displayed.

While on my personal and professional journey, I combined my art and nursing degrees to provide Creative Expression  programming which has been an important part of my life’s journey.

In 2016, “Sunshine” Joe’s name crossed my path once again. Who could forget his creative ability with his tapestries and his embroidery!

Without light, darkness prevails—SUNSHINE is a natural healer and offers HOPE. With a name like Sunshine Joe, this was a perfect re-connect.

Sunshine8496I wondered how Joe Mallard got the name Sunshine Joe.  He told me,  “Many years ago while working with a group of fifth graders in Louisville KY, a student asked if she could give me a nickname. I said yes.  She said ‘Sunshine Joe.’  I asked why. ‘She said, ‘the sunshine brings light and you do too.’”

Since retiring in 2013 from Corporate America, Sunshine Joe said, “I turned my energies exclusively to my community work and my own art.”  Sunshine Joe’s exquisite artwork has gained national recognition. He says, “The tapestry-quilts, sometimes taking years to complete, pulsate with color, energy, and joy.”

With a shared interest in our youth, Sunshine Joe will be working with LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited  “to heighten awareness of those who live in poverty, susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness and help to Improve Impoverished Lives.”

We Survive would like to invite everyone to be part of LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited “to show your support for the future of America with a Light of HOPE.” By joining this worldwide movement, you will be showing the passion that you have for your community and the world.

On November 5, you can send a message of HOPE for LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited 2016, by having a Light-Up Celebration at 6pm Eastern Time, with your family and friends while putting compassion into action. Display some form of LIGHT representing HOPE. It can be a porch light, candle, flashlight or cell phone.

For more information about Sunshine Joe Mallard’s work, you can contact him at: Email

Telephone: 502-491-2517 or 502-533-2261

Encouraging Words

Encouraging Words

Encouraging Words

Written by Sharon Cecil

words have powerWords have power.  Everyone needs to hear words of encouragement.  Unfortunately, sometimes words are used to inflict pain.

We Survive was part of a health and wellness pilot program developed by Girl Scout USA called Growing Up Female.  In 1996, I met with Girl Scout Troop 1472.  Emphasizing the importance of a positive ATTITUDE, I presented a message on health while introducing ways for the girls to feel comfortable knowing their own bodies.


The young ladies in the troop were 11 years old, so I wasn’t sure that they were really hearing the message.  When one of the leaders called me and said that the “girls” wanted to take the information they learned and had already started planning a way to create a Silver Award project, I realized that there was power in that presentation.


Girl Scout Troop 1472 produced an educational video along with materials for handouts, which was formally presented at a Women’s Luncheon, which opened the door for a discussion on health and wellness with a focus on breast cancer.  This program became We Survive’s Women Offering Wisdom (WOW).


Brittany Zinsious-Kinder and Nikki Sherrard (Arielle Sherrard Corbett) continued with the WOW program, after the Girl Scout Troop members received their Silver Award, until they graduated from high school.


WOW made it possible for valuable information to reach young women while offering opportunities for young women to serve their community with the support of adult advisors.


In leadership roles, Brittany and Nikki planned, promoted and presented programming while being the creators and educators of health and wellness events. Brittany and Nikki assembled a team of presenters for programs and events.


rsz_mofclogoAsking if they could learn more about event planning, Brittany, Nikki and several other young ladies on the team met with Linda Surbeck founder of Master of Ceremonies.


Linda was more that willing to act as an advisor to this group of young ladies.  Linda inspired them with her creativity and diversity.  They could see the passion Linda had for her work.


rsz_positive_book_3Positive Powerful Promotional Words,” a book Linda authored, was given to the group.  With book in hand and carrying the inspirational words in their heart, these young ladies left the meeting realizing their hopes and dreams were attainable.  Linda Surbeck gave meaning to the power of words and presented them with the “Power of the Dream.”


“There never shall be one lost good. All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist.” —Robert Browning


With Compassion, Courage and Collaboration, the WOW Girlz gave voice to young people through a radio talk show, magazine, book and creative health and wellness programs, events and a resource center located at Jefferson Community and Technical College where they could meet and mentor their peers.  “Having a special peer mentor had a significant effect on these young women’s lives.”


“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank


Linda, THANK YOU for your continued support!!

Chili’s Fundraiser

Chili’s Fundraiser

Enjoy a meal at Chili’s with family and friends while supporting We Survive’s effort to provide Day of Hope  experiences so that children and families living in poverty, those susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness know that someone cares.

Print and bring this voucher with you and 15% of your purchase (before taxes) will go to support a Day of Hope. During a Day of Hope experience, participants are empowered to BELIEVE in the power of having a dream.


Show You Care—It’s Contagious

Show You Care—It’s Contagious

Show You Care—It’s Contagious

Written by Sharon Cecil

As a child, Muhammad Ali grew up in Louisville, Kentucky.  At the age of 12, someone stole his bicycle and he wanted to “whip” the thief, but trained to be a boxer instead. A dream was followed and a “Champion” was discovered.

A lot of inner city youth get outdoors to ride their bike, if they have a bike.   When they are outside, it often means they are surrounded by what is known as the “asphalt jungle” with minimal grass and trees.

”When confronted with a hopeless situation… to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into triumph” ~~Victor Frankl

On June 11, 2016, Bloomfield, a small Kentucky town, reached out to children and families from the inner city for National Get Outdoors Day. We Survive’s Haven of Hope and the City of Bloomfield coordinated ScenicFest a LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Activity for National Get Outdoors Day.


Exploring the creek at Haven of Hope.

As participating partners of National Get Outdoors Day, ScenicFest offered opportunities for families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities.

ScenicFest brought a small town experience to a group of inner city children and families who know poverty and homelessness first hand.

Taking a scenic bus ride to Bloomfield, Kentucky, the group stopped at Haven of Hope. Greeted by volunteers, the children played, hiked, ate lunch and waded in the creek while the adults observed or joined in the activities.

The next stop was Bloomfield’s Memorial Park where Bloomfield Mayor Rhonda Hagan and Councilwoman Tammy Wimpsett were eager to welcome the group.

Children use shovels and hands to fill in around the tulip poplar tree they helped plant at Bloomfield Memorial Park.

Children use shovels and hands to fill in around the tulip poplar tree they helped plant at Bloomfield Memorial Park. Picture from Randy Patrick at the Kentucky Standard.

Each child was greeted with a yellow ribbon with their name on it to tie to a branch of a Tulip Poplar Tree during a Tree Dedication. As Councilwoman Wimpsett said, “Next year as the Branches Bloom with Hope the children know they have roots in Bloomfield, Kentucky.”

ScenicFest, like the other LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited activities, shared the plight of those living in poverty and those susceptible to poverty and homelessness while empowering participants to BELIEVE in the power of having a dream.



LIGHTFEST originated at Churchill Downs in 1997 and was born from the 1996 Summer Olympics Torch Relay to ignite Hopes and Dreams.


MAC logo_box_tagIn 2014, LIGHTFEST was re-ignited with a reception held at the Muhammad Ali Center. LIGHTFEST Re-ignited took the place of We Survive’s annual Hunger and Homelessness event held every November one week before the National Coalition for the Homeless Hunger and Homeless Awareness week.


November 5, 2016, there is a worldwide initiative to Shine a Light of Hope so that children and their families know that the world cares about their difficult circumstances, while bringing attention to the need of those dealing with or are susceptible to hunger and homelessness.

The 1996 Summer Olympics Torch Relay

The 1996 Summer Olympics Torch Relay

The 1996 Summer Olympics Torch Relay

IGNITE a Light at Night

UNITE the World with LIGHT

“The 1996 Summer Olympics torch relay  was run from April 27, 1996 until July 19, 1996, prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta… The relay involved over 12,000 torchbearers, including Muhammad Ali, whose lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony is remembered as one of the most inspiring and emotional moments in Olympic history” – Wikipedia

Being chosen as a torchbearer for the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay was both humbling and an honor.

During a 1996 Olympic event in Louisville, Kentucky, my husband and I met Muhammad Ali. Remembering the stillness that filled the room as Muhammad Ali was accompanied into the ballroom was electrifying. You could feel the energy shift.

sharon-moodySeated behind us, my husband leaned towards me and said he would like to meet Mr. Ali. Someone must have heard him. There was a tap on my husband’s shoulder. As he stood up, Muhammad Ali extended his hand as if they were old friends.

It was a WONDERFUL Memory Moment which made the Olympic Torch Relay and the Summer Olympics that much more personal to us.

In a New York Times Magazine article published SUNDAY, July 7, 1996: The Olympics;Atlanta Needs Flame! Notes From a Long Torch Trip


Sharon-torch“In 60 years of Olympic torch relays, never have so many carried fire so far.” During its journey, the flame was to cross the bridge from Indiana to Kentucky. The excitement was mounting on that June 5 evening in Louisville, Kentucky as everyone waited for the arrival of the flame at the Riverfront Plaza-Belvedere.

The New York Times further states, “ Just minutes away from a downtown gala, University of Kentucky’s basketball coach, Rick Pitino, is delayed by the F.B.I. while agents investigate a bomb threat against the event.”

Once the all clear was given, the flame arrived and the festive celebratory environment once again erupted.

The flame continued its journey through Louisville the next morning making its way to Atlanta, Georgia.

Seeing the lighting of the cauldron in Atlanta on July 19, 1996, and hearing the song “The Power of the Dream,” the theme song from the 1996 Olympics, the following verse stuck a nerve. “Feel the flame forever burn teaching lessons we must learn, to bring us closer to the power of the dream… The world unites in hope and peace, we pray that it will always be. It is the power of the dream that brings us here.”

Continuing to “feel the flame forever burn,” LIGHTFEST was born from the Olympic Torch Relay. It was originally held at Churchill Downs from 1997 to 2001. Archive Courier-Journal March 24, story of the original LIGHTFEST event by Bill Wolfe stated the “Festival radiates light, hope, dreams and Olympic spirit.”

The re-igniting of LIGHTFEST was kicked off with a reception at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 8 2014, in the area that houses Muhammad Ali’s torch.

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited  continues to Inspire Hopes and Dreams.

For most, Muhammad Ali is seen as a “Symbol of Hope” throughout the world. He proved that one person can “Be Great and Do Great Things.”

Muhammad Ali, 1942-2016

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

The Basic Ingredient of Hope

Many THANKS to Bob Mueller! In reading (his writings) his stories, they are a reflection of his work and his strong belief that there is HOPE.

I especially found the title of this story “The Basic Ingredient of Hope” to be in line with the mission of  We Survive and LIGHTFEST. Bob sums it up so well in this sentence, “Hope is a positive and potent basic ingredient with the power to pull us through difficult times.”

~Sharon Cecil


The Basic Ingredient of Hope 

Written by: Bob Mueller, Vice President of Development at Hosparus, Louisville, KY


Turning on a light is my cue to practice hope. When I plant a seed or a bulb, I am reminded to plant hope in my heart. Whenever I meet people who are thrashing about in gloom and doom, I vow to hold up the banner of hope.

Hope is a positive and potent basic ingredient with the power to pull us through difficult times. Hope is the virtue I write and talk about the most and the element most needed in our world. It is usually described with light metaphors – a ray, a beam, a glimmer of hope; the break in the clouds; the light at the end of the dark tunnel. It is often discovered in unexpected places.

Hope can be learned with practice. Certain attitudes support it. One is patience, an ability to tolerate delays, a willingness to let events unfold in their own time. Another is courage, an attitude of confidence even when facing the unknown. A third is persistence, the determination to keep going no matter what happens. We have hope when we can say “All will be well,” and we mean it.

Hope is the basic ingredient of optimism, a tendency to dwell on the best possibilities. It is a frequent companion of another practice – enthusiasm. It, too, is energizing. The greeting “Be of good cheer” puts it well.

But a more common, and very telling expression, is “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” The more likely outcome, it implies, is the worst. When we are without hope, we easily fall victim to such negativism. When the light of hope is absent, we are overcome by gloom and doom, despair and defeatism.

In terms of personal style, without hope we are easily frustrated and quickly discouraged. We may lack the stamina and nerve to continue struggling against adversity. We are fainthearted. We really do expect the worst.

Places in the Heart is an emotional affecting film about living with hope. It is set in a small Texas town during the 1930. When Edna’s husband, the sheriff, is killed, this vulnerable and passive woman is suddenly faced with the challenge of taking full responsibility for her life and her children’s future. She hires Moze, a black itinerant worker, to plant and harvest a cotton crop on her 40-acre farm. She takes on Mr. Will, a blind man, as a boarder. This extended family is bonded together during a tornado in the biggest challenge of all – harvesting the cotton in time to win the bonus prize for the first crop, money desperately needed to pay the farm’s mortgage.

This is a story about struggling through adversity and being sustained by hope. The closing scene of Places in the Heart takes place in a church during a communion service. It demonstrates in a palpable way how the hope for a better life, one of inclusiveness and reconciliation, extends even beyond the grave.

Rock music is basically a hopeful medium, despite all the lyrics about personal woes and the messes and miseries of the world. When we need a boost, nothing is quite as effective as putting on a pounding rock song and joining in the defiant and hopeful chorus. To see what I mean, listen to these  anthems of hope: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, “You Can Make It If You Try” by Sly and the Family Stone and “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

Write affirmations to express your hopes for yourself and a better world. Make positive, optimistic statements as often as possible. Be cheerful. This is not being Pollyanna. It is leaving a door open to hope.