Invisible Yet Invaluable part3

Invisible Yet Invaluable part3

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)

rev carolLet us introduce you to Rev Carol Wieger, Pastor of New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) located inside Dismas Charities – Diersen and supported by Mission Behind Bars and Beyond Inc.

“I believe that God has blessed each of us with a gift.  That gift may not be readily apparent to us without the encouragement and discernment of another individual.  That gift may not be something that’s exactly tangible, either.  But, regardless, we each have a beautiful gift to share with one another.

When we realize that we have something valuable to share, we realize that we are valuable.  Unfortunately, not everyone has felt this before in their lives. 

My hope is to serve women in a capacity that leaves them feeling empowered, valued, capable, and respected.  When all these goals are achieved, the gifts that are found within each one of us can be shared with others… and that’s when the beauty truly begins.”

Invisible Yet Invaluable part2

Invisible Yet Invaluable part2

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)

 blue browningLet us introduce you to Jacqueline “Blue” Browning, a psychiatric nurse who works with patients across the life span and volunteers to offer hope through health and wellness education.

Since a very young age, I knew I was placed on this planet with a mission, that mission being help others heal. Little did I know of the pain and struggles I would have to face and conquer in order to understand the concept of survival and thriving.  Everything I do, I do with the vision of being my best version, so I may impact others who may need a glimmer of hope, a kind word, reassurance. Many people whether it be family, friends or strangers have given me just that along the way. I am eternally grateful to them and work to give back every day. 

My goal is to bring holistic care to my patients and with those whom I volunteer. We all share this planet; this living breathing planet and we are all connected. My hope is to have people re-connect with themselves so that they may connect with others. Connection is what makes us strong. Together we are an unstoppable force.

Invisible Yet Invaluable

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 while learning about the “Learn and Earn” initiative.  

Location                     St Augustine Catholic Church

                                      1310 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40203

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

carol annLet us introduce you to Carol Ann Balogh, Owner and Founder of Enrichment Activities, LLC.

“I am focused on each Individual finding their purpose.  Thus enabling them to feel more a part of their community. I want to help them to find how they can actually give of their own efforts, which will fulfill and enrich their own lives and increase their own self-esteem.

No matter what skills a person possesses, no matter what challenges he or she is going thru.  Everyone has the ability to move forward.

I want to be the person who helps a person find that talent, that skill, that interest…To take that interest and ignite that passion in their own ability to push forward.  To not only enjoy life, but to expand on the purpose to keep living.  To connect with the community, as a vital part of the community.”

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 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

Learn and Earn – A Personal Perspective

Learn and Earn

A Personal Perspective

Written by Sharon Cecil

Growing up in a dysfunctional family and my mother’s death my senior year of high school set me on a journey full of exploration and discovery that included a failed marriage, multiple moves and several jobs.  I was full of doubt, had no self-esteem or confidence in myself. But, I knew that I had to learn in order to earn my way in life.

While married to my first husband, I experienced a turbulent yet MIRACULOUS pregnancy, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, bouncing baby girl in 1972.  Whew—after experiencing a Postpartum Depression, I was in need of a full body wellness experience.  

In order to be a good mother, I knew that I was going to need a lot of guidance.  Mental health seemed to be what was needed the most.  Part of the health care plan was to become engaged in therapeutic crafts.  This seemed to be the most beneficial part of my care plan, it was important to learn as much as I could.

In 1974, I started a craft class at Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY with the Highland Community Ministries.  This class lasted until the mid-1980’s.

During this time, I found myself to be a single parent after a difficult divorce.   I learned how to barter, and sell consignments utilizing my craft skills.  In order to supplement my income, I began:

  • doing cleaning at a local sewing center in exchange for sewing lessons and material to make my daughter and myself clothes 
  • making craft items to sell at a shop in St. Matthews, KY
  • learning a simple painting style while talking ceramic lessons in order to teach lessons for a craft shop in Jeffersontown, KY.

In 1979, an opportunity was available for me to go to college on a grant. During the discussion with my advisor, I shared that I would like to do hair styling, be a seamstress, chef or baker—something artistic.  He said that the only college course that would fit the list was chef through a Culinary Arts Program, which was not recommended.  He said that if I wanted to do something artistic, “you need to minor in art and get a traditional degree.”  He pushed business.  

I decided to get an Art Degree with no business in the mix.  

Some years passed, and I became a Registered Nurse. Since then, I‘ve applied my art and nursing skills as a psychiatric nurse, university lecturer, health educator and social advocate to design creative programming that benefit others.

As cancer survivors, my late husband, Moody Cecil, and I co-founded We Survive in 1994.  In 2012, Moody became dependent on me for much of his care.  Choosing to keep Moody at home was a choice I don’t regret making. Although it drained our finances and I am now experiencing financial fragility, I am a fighter who will not sit back with self-doubt.  That will not get me anywhere.   

In 2014, it was decided to re-ignite an event that was originally held in 1997—LIGHTFEST.  By 2015, we became less involved in the community because of both of our medical challenges.  But it was still possible to keep LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited (LFR) viable.  In 2017, LFR was celebrated in over 70 cities and 2 countries. It has been the goal of LIGHTFEST to reach an international level whereby everyone around the world will shine a Light of HOPE.

I faced life’s tragic obstacles that came with a dysfunctional family, the harshness of not being loved by a parent to watching people self-destruct through poor choices. Once I married Moody, I learned how to be loved unconditionally, believe in myself and dare to dream. 

Moody and I faced many obstacles and yet never gave up our passion to help others.  We blended our talents and created We Survive.  Our obstacles were many but our resolve was strong.

My actions have been from acquiring a deep-seated desire to never have another person feel alone or afraid.  As my husband would say to me and I now say to others, “I will believe in you until you believe in yourself. “  

Moody passed away in December of 2016.  Today I sit here writing this story thinking about the Business Degree I didn’t pursue and the lessons I have learned along the journey life has taken. Having personally experienced the power of hope, I am inspired to share that message with others through art and nature. I believe that “Art Saves Lives.”  It has saved mine numerous times.  

This year, We Survive is kicking off a Social Entrepreneurship Initiative—Learn and Earn which had gained momentum due to We Survive’s Voices – Passport to Art that took place in March 2018.

It is important to do what gets you excited–Purposeful Living is about living a life that you love.

I feel that Learn and Earn is not just about the potential to earn money. It’s about earning self-respect, self-confidence, recognition and support, and learn entrepreneurial skills. If some money can be earned, great!!!

Watch this short video to learn more about We Survive and some of its programming.


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!

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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: