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

LIGHTFEST & Those to Inspire Others to Aspire

LIGHTFEST & Those to Inspire Others to Aspire

It is the first week of the New Year and LIGHTFEST will be igniting the Flame of Hope from a SPARK in your heart as LIGHTFEST will continue its 25th Anniversary Celebration activities as we Light the World with Hope.

How it all got started
In 1996, Sharon Cecil met Girl Scout Troop 1472. They were working on a project –Growing Up Female. The troop became involved with the pilot program for WOW (WOW – Women Offering Wisdom) that started at Wayside Christian Mission. The girls wanted to use their clowning ministry to help educate about the concepts of the WOW program. These girls were instrumental in creating many of WE SURVIVE’s events including the LIGHTFEST born from the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay held at Churchill Downs in 1997.
LIGHTFEST is a time to come together and bring awareness to the issues accompanied by a sense of hopelessness; some being feelings of entrapment in unresolvable outcomes (ie: hunger and homelessness) with mental and medical challenges.

Recent Themes
We Survive continues to reach out to children and families through various activities and the annual LIGHTFEST event while Realizing The Power of the Dream.

“Deep within each heart

There lies a magic spark

That lights the fire of our imagination…
Feel the flame forever burn

Teaching lessons we must learn

To bring us closer to the power of the dream”

Lyrics from “The Power of the Dream”

LIGHTFEST 2022 – “Hope a Gift of Empowerment” was nontraditional with the creation of a Commemorative Tapestry designed by Sunshine Joe Mallard.  

LIGHTFEST 2023  – “Light the World with Hope” is showcasing youth and what they have done for 25 years through combined efforts with schools and other organizations assisting We Survive and LIGHTFEST to be viable entities as an intricate part of communities worldwide.  
Through a series of stories over the next 7 months, we will be introducing multiple aspects of  volunteers and their contribution to our communities (locally and globally).  We will also be acknowledging those who have mentored and advised these youth through the years.  

People who Inspire others to Aspire Today, I am introducing you to Sunshine Joe Mallard and Stacy Burks. You will be hearing more about these extraordinary people in the next 7 months.  

Sunshine Joe at LIGHTFEST 2019

Sunshine Joe Mallard “Sunshine Joe’s work sparks dialogue and chronicles the hopes and challenges facing our greater community.” ~~ The Carnegie Center for Art and History  

Sunshine Joe’s involvement with We Survive began almost 20 years ago when we had an educational display at the Kentucky Center for the Arts for Hunger and Homelessness.    In  2016-, Sunshine Joe and We Survive worked to coordinate an activity with the youth at Global Games Changes creating a tapestry “Voices.” The children learned about the art of  needle/tapestry art.  They wrote on the tapestry before its being embroidered and quilted in preparation for hanging.  
In 2023, we will be presenting a Commemorative Tapestry to YPAS-duPontManual.

Stacy Burks at LIGHTFEST 2019

Stacy Burks Stacy Burks was a nursing student when I first met her.  I took nursing students to Wayside Christian Mission for clinicals and she was one of my students who truly was moved by her experience.  
Stacy is now a nursing instructor.  She takes her students to Wayside Christian Mission on a regular basis and brings students each year to LIGHTFEST events.

On Friday, December 30, I got an invitation to a new non-profit started by Stacy who has partnered with Cristal Pollak. Stacy says, “We have been a solid team for many years now and without each other’s support Our502family would not exist. This is a dream for us both.”
How amazing is it that one of my past students who has been extremely involved in LIGHTFEST has launched a non-profit from her experience at Wayside years ago!  
Their mission “to share the love, joy and hope that so many have lost through homelessness. As long as we are able we will move… #hopelives”

2023 LIGHTFEST – Light the World with Hope Since the inception of LIGHTFEST in 1997 at Churchill Downs, the blending of organizations and schools throughout Kentuckiana has included a constant base from YPAS-duPont Manual.  One of our very first Youth Advisors was JC Reedy (Assistant to the principal at YPAS and Artistic Producer). 
Individuals and groups will continue to create activities leading up to the date of the Commemorative Tapestry Presentation Event in 2023 – Date TBA

What the Day of Hope Means to Me

What the Day of Hope Means to Me

What the Day of Hope Means to Me

by Jacqueline Blue Browning

blue and sharonThe love and compassion that Moody and Sharon share always struck me at my core. Here were two individuals who had discovered some of the secrets of life. Simple secrets, that get lost in the hustle and bustle of life as we know it to be on this planet today. Some of the most important secrets ; to stop and take the time to breath in nature, to be grateful for and appreciate the beauty of our Earth and to share with one another. These simple truths are often forgotten by many, yet when these secrets are put into practice the results are amazing.

I remember much laughter and wonderful conversations with the children and parents at Day Of Hope. This event is so important to the community. Providing children and families with not only hope but relaxation, a moment to pause and reflect and appreciate the beauty in the world. The atmosphere is always harmonious and everyone shares with one another and smiles.

6-15DayHopeCreek(3)I met Sharon Cecil when I was on my first clinical rotation for the LPN Program at Galen College. She was my first ever clinical instructor. She was so knowledgeable and compassionate. As I continued with my studies I moved on to the RN program. Upon graduation I began working with Sharon on the Day of Hope event. I partnered up with Whole Foods as they donate fruit, snacks and drinks for everyone. I enjoyed being the nurse educator and would provide health and nutrition information. My favorite part was always hiking with the kids. We would also go down to the creek and explore, face paint and paint rocks. We would have a fire pit and make smores. It was always a great time for everyone involved.

Hearing the laughter of the children, seeing the smiles on the faces of the adults, listening to the trees sway in the wind, smelling the fire pit’s smoke float and dance with the wind all while feeling the sun on our skin was one of my favorite memories. I have attended the day of hope for the last 5 years and will continue to for as long as I am able. I plan on continuing my commitment to Sharon and Moody and their vision. I will be graduating in 2019 as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and will continue to participate, create and be a part of Day of Hope.blue


Jacqueline Blue Browning, PMHNP- student

Eastern Kentucky University, Class of 2019

Is being called Pollyannaish insulting? 

Is being called Pollyannaish insulting? 

Written by Sharon Cecil

Is being called Pollyannaish insulting?


I have often been referred to as a Pollyanna. The definition of Pollyanna according to Merriam-Webster dot com, “a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.”

I have considered being called Pollyanna a compliment. Think about how much gladness Pollyanna brought to the little town of Beldingsville, Vermont.

FYI— Did you know that there were sequels to Pollyanna known as “Glad Books,” published throughout the years? If not, check it out.

Being positive (Pollyannaish) can be catching…Even inspiring. A nurse by the name of Fran was my inspiration and virtual mother. She said that the best medicine was being positive and laughter. She was one of the greatest influences in my life. She was ABSOLUTELY right!!

During childhood, reading was an escape from the world around me. I loved reading happy stories like Pollyanna, mysteries and drama. The same thing goes today. As I’ve gotten older though, my reading time has taken a hit since watching happy movies, mysteries and dramas on TV.

The original LIGHTFEST held at Churchill Downs was, “billed as a `day of light and hope, “Bill Wolfe, The Courier-Journal March 24, 1997. It was an event that gave joy and gladness to all that attended.

Let’s cast a shadow on the cloud of doubt.

Let’s show the World that there is truth in being GLAD

Join the LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Movement

Shine a Light of HOPE

On November 7, 2015 at 6pm Eastern Time, be apart of the LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited movement and display a Light of Hope. It can be a porch light, candle or flashlight…this can be done as a group or individually