2023 LIGHTFEST Tapestry Project

2023 LIGHTFEST Tapestry Project

Written by Sharon Cecil

We Survive has served the community since 1994.  In 2023, we will Ignite Hope.

The main source of volunteers for We Survive programming and events came from the Youth Performing Arts School-YPAS/duPont Manual and Scouting –Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.  Many of these young people were part of both entities. 

“There’s a thread that binds all of us together; pull one end of the thread, the strain is felt all down the line.” 

-Rosamond Marshall

2022-23 LIGHTFEST Planning

Sunshine Joe Mallard had offered to do a Commemorative Tapestry for the 25th Anniversary.  So we already had that as part of the 2022 LIGHTFEST Event.

Picture: Sunshine Joe and students at YPAS working on the Commemorative Tapestry

There were several plans.  Due to the residual of the pandemic, many organizations were a little gun shy as the community opened up to the 2022 face to face events.  As plans fell apart several times, it was not a deterrent.  As a matter of fact, it became a motivator.

People who Inspire others to Aspire   

Today, I am introducing you to Prayga Wason and Bryan Crady. You will be hearing more about extraordinary people in the next 7 months.  

In September, 2022, Pragya Wason contacted We Survive wanting to volunteer for Light the World with Hope.  We had numerous brainstorming sessions that led us to her talents.  

Picture (Left to Right): Sunshine Joe, Pragya & Sharon

Pragya has had many volunteer experiences.  Many of these experiences have been as a student at YPAS.  She is a member of Guitar Club and volunteers helping middle schoolers at Noe Middle School learn solo pieces, volunteering at concerts and music events through the Tri-M Music Honors Society, and playing ukulele with kids at Louisville Free Public Library through Out Loud Louisville.  I was taken by Pragya’s ukulele abilities.  There are plans to use her ukulele talents during activities leading up to and including the Tapestry Presentation

Pragya has been the impetus for the upcoming Tapestry Presentation with the coordination of the tapestry outline meeting and the 2022 LIGHTFEST Event -signing of the tapestry- held at YPAS/duPont Manual.  

Pragya’s talents and skills are impressive.  

Bryan Crady  Mr. Crady has served as Assistant Principal at The Youth Performing Arts School since Fall 2008.  He is a trombonist and vocalist.   Mr. Crady has served as choir and music director in churches since 1990 and has performed in many musical productions during his career. He considers each day a privilege and joy to work with students and teachers who share his love for the arts and education.

Picture (Left to Right): JC Reedy, YPAS Volunteer; Sharon Cecil, Executive Director We Survive; Pragya Wason, YPAS Student; Bryan Crady, Assistant Principal, YPAS

I believe that his love for the Arts is what drew him to the idea of the Commemorative Tapestry Project.  He gave us a piece of memorabilia that will be a large part of this Commemorative Tapestry.

Mr. Crady has been supportive of Pragya’s efforts in the coordination of this project.  

2023 LIGHTFEST – Light the World with Hope

There will be a lot of pleasant surprises at the presentation to be held in August 2023. Date TBA

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.


Portrayal of Hope Tapestry

Portrayal of Hope Tapestry

Portrayal of Hope Tapestry

Portrayal of Hope TapestryOn November 5, 2016, there will be a new activity introduced at LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited–Portrayal of Hope.

We are very excited about our reconnecting with Sunshine Joe Mallard. He has design a commemorative piece for  LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited 2016 LIGHTFEST Station in Louisville, where participants will be provided the opportunity to embroidery their names into the Portrayal of Hope Tapestry.

sunshine-joe-library-pictureSunshine Joe Mallard
is one of American’s premier Creative Embroidery craftsmen. He has been embroidering for more than 40 years.

Portrayal of Hope

As we take the message of HOPE Around the World—We Survive asks that everyone join this journey to create a Portrayal of Hope Project at his or her school, workplace or organization.

We may not always comprehend that poverty can be an entanglement of multiple circumstances. As we send messages of inspiration and hope around the world, We Survive and “Sunshine Joe” would like to see you incorporate HOPE into your daily lives and reach out to your community, city and the world at large bringing awareness to the issues of poverty, those susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness.


Portrayal of Hope