This is Molly Smithson’s second year in Playing For Others. She is a junior at Myers Park High School. Being involved in theatre since 6th grade, she heard about PFO from a friend two years ago and immediately applied because she loved the idea of an all-inclusive organization proactively working hand in hand with theatre and the arts to help kids with disabilities. She felt right at home the moment she walked into the PFO retreat where everyone greeted her warmly and gave her a hug. She had a blast in the music experience; performing on the egg shaker and singing along to the song Dig a Little Deeper, which the group wrote as a whole. She was also a member of the Tech Team Committee. This year she is proud to be leading the Set Committee as the chair along with Savvy Jillani and Mary Courtney Blake. Through being in Playing For Others, Molly has learned the invaluable lesson of accepting people no matter what stereotypes may be used to describe them. She is so glad to be a part of such a fantastic organization!
This is my first year being a part of PFO. I was so excited about becoming part of this group. I love to work with children and I love all forms of art. A group that reaches out to children with disabilities through the arts is so great. Being able to help the community and to make a difference, even to just one person, is amazing. One of the aspects of PFO that I was most excited about was having a buddy. My buddy Frannie is so fun to be with. Getting to know her and her family has been great. Another fabulous part of PFO is the committees that basically run PFO. Being a part of the set committee, I have learned about renderings, how texture is read onstage and how set color schemes affect a show. PFO members are also some of the nicest and most accepting people you will ever meet. I know that the friendships I make in PFO will be greatly cherished. PFO will always be influential in my life and I am so honored to be part of something so phenomenal.
I remember when I first heard about Playing For Others. I was sitting in my theatre class, during those last few minutes before the bell rang, when Izzy began telling the class about PFO. It was an organization that used the power of artistic expression to create change by helping others. Finally, I thought, there was a way to combine my love of the visual and performing arts with my passion for helping others! Instantly, I knew that Playing For Others was something I wanted to be a part of.
At the beginning of November, Kate and Nicole held auditions for a show that they would be co-directing for their graduation project, “How to Eat Like a Child”. Being someone who loves musicals, I auditioned, not realizing exactly what was in store for me. I found out the next week that I was going to be the stage manager for this show! I was absolutely thrilled to hear the news, for it was my first technical theatre position, despite the fact that I had no idea as to what a “stage manager” did, nor had I ever managed anything in my whole life. The next month was filled with several hours of rehearsal to prepare us for our performance in December, which would benefit Arts for Life as well as Playing For Others.
Finally, the Opening Day had arrived. All of the hard work and the many hours put forth by the cast and crew were going to be put to the test. I quickly learned that the purpose of a stage manager was to do what ever was needed, and to be there in case of an emergency. Fortunately, everything went perfectly; it was a huge success! I was so proud of all those involved, they were absolutely amazing. The show also raised a lot of money for two wonderful organizations, solely through donations. I was surprised by, and thankful for, the kindness of others.
I learned so much by being a part of this show, not only in regards to technical theatre, but also about responsibility, dedication and friendship. The camaraderie between the cast and crew was the closest I had ever seen, and this experience made me remember why I love the arts.
I am very excited to be in Playing for Others for its fourth running year. I decided to apply last minute while over at a friend’s house working on a project. She mentioned it and convinced me that I should submit an application so when I arrived home, I immediately jumped on the computer and filled it out. I was so happy when two weeks later; I got the response that I was invited to an interview with the executive director, Jen Band. A week or two after that, I got the very exciting email that I was invited to be a part of this season! Playing for Others is a great cause, so I was extremely honored to be asked to be a teen involved. Before PFO, I almost avoided people with developmental disabilities, thinking what other people did: they were weird. So I was particularly nervous when I met my buddy for the first time, back in October. After meeting him and his family, I realized that he’s exactly like me, just has different needs. I felt as if this was an epiphany in my personal life, giving me the opportunity to go out and help change other people’s minds. I’ve definitely seen what I’ve told my friends take effect, and this just encourages me even more. Two days ago in gym, our class of about 100 was playing volleyball. There is a teenager with a disability in this class who usually stands off to the side, not interacting. He caught the ball, and made an exclamation that people normally would have made fun of to his face. What impressed me was that not one person, senior or freshman, of my class said anything negative to him. In fact, the people around him cheered for his catch, and let him serve it back over the net. He missed, and in return, received pats on the back and “Nice try!” These were not sarcastic remarks either, they were heartfelt and sincere. High school students who could make people cry with five or six words reached out and expressed feeling towards this teen. This really inspired me to spread the word even farther about Playing for Others, to affect even more people, and to make even more lives enhanced. I think that every teen should be involved somehow with an organization that is focused on giving everyone the right treatment and to not judge people by whom they are or what they look like. In PFO, someone could stand up on a table and start singing Hawaiian music and people, instead of walking away, would join in! We’re a crazy bunch of teens, and that’s what makes PFO so great. Playing for Others has also provided a safe, no judgment zone. Let’s be honest, who wasn’t teased at least some in high school? Whether it was because of our race, ethnic group, sexuality, or personality, we’ve all been called names behind our backs. The teens in PFO know how this feels and understands that it can break someone down to pieces. So when I joined and met so many new people, I acted very reserve and “cool” so they would like me. I then gradually discovered that they would like me no matter what, a table-dancing Hawaiian singer or not. Playing for others is all about acceptance, leadership, communication, and learning. This has been one of the greatest choices in my life that I have made, deciding to fill out a last minute application. I’m happy I did it.
Hatred is a strong feeling. It is divisive, hurtful, and detrimental both to the person being hated, as well as the hater themselves. I used to harbor a hatred. But it was irrational, uneducated, and just plain wrong. Mine was a hatred against people with disabilities. I thought they were strange, stupid, and had nothing to offer someone like me. But after just one short month in Playing for Others, I came to realize how terribly wrong I had been.
I joined PFO in 2007, its second year, mainly because my friends from Children’s Theatre kept telling me I should join. They told be their individual stories about how wonderful it was, how unifying, and how life changing. Now I greatly respect and love my friends and am always up for trying new experiences, but this was different. The first thought that popped into my head was: “Why would anyone what to hang out with retarded people?” Despite my reluctance to join due to that aspect of the program, I decided to try it and focus on the theatrical aspect and hanging out with my friends.
I arrived at the first buddy event apathetic and scared. It was daunting and frightening to try and interact with a child who I thought was going to be so different from myself. To my surprise, playing with my buddy Kaitlin came as naturally as playing with any other child. By the end of the outing, I had almost completely forgotten that Kaitlin had Down Syndrome. My past hatred seemed as though it had evaporated—the first indication that PFO would end up changing my life. As I broke down my own barriers, I discovered that I wanted to encourage others to do so as well. I began educating my friends about PFO’s message of acceptance and inclusion, and I corrected them if unknowingly referred to something as “retarded”. I found that my passion for PFO skyrocketed in just a few short months of being around my peers who were invested with a dedicated energy and of course my buddy who I grew to love more and more throughout the course of the year.
Going into committee meeting, I really saw my opportunity to create change. I began approaching people for corporate sponsorships, calling and meeting with heads of major businesses, something I never thought I would find myself doing, or enjoying. Meeting with Bill Crowder was perhaps the most inspiring corporate sponsor experience I had because I saw how he truly believed in our mission and what we wanted to accomplish, aiding us by donating $5000. I had never felt so empowered, inspired, and passionate about doing anything in my entire life, and I found that devoting my whole self to this non-profit was the most rewarding experience of my life. Going into the Arts Festival Weekend, it all became kind of a blur. It was a whirlwind of excitement, celebration, and performance after performance. But three vivid moments stood out to me: the very first performance of Frog and Toad, when I first got on stage and the opening number began to run I felt so empowered knowing that this performance was for something greater than myself. The next moment that stays vivid in my mind is meeting Kaitlin in front of the limo at the Red Carpet Event, walking her down the carpet and trying to make her feel like a star, showering her with all the love in my heart. Lastly was the check presentation, the adrenaline was pulsing through my veins as I held hands with my fellow PFOers. The speech from Misty made me cry and at that point I realized that it didn’t really matter how much money we had raised because those beautiful words about the impact we made were worth more than any amount of zeros on a check. The cloth was torn off the check, and the words “Twenty-five thousand dollars” were screamed into the air. I was estatic! I couldn’t believe it; I hugged and cried with everyone as we celebrated this miraculous achievement.
Three years later, my passion still runs strong and true and I now hold a leadership role as chair of my committee. My experiences in PFO have been beyond eye opening and the lessons I learned will be invaluable to me for the rest of my life. I cannot fully express in words the difference this organization has made in my life, but the people I have met and the things I have done are absolutely unforgettable. PFO has helped me to discover my passion, turned my hatred into love, and truly changed my life.
Throughout my sophomore year I had many friends in PFO. To me it was nothing more than something they had to do every week. As I found out more about the program I was intrigued and I was sold as soon as I started to meet the other teens in PFO. When the time came to apply, I was both eager and nervous. When I found out that I got in, I was anxious to start the year and get the full PFO ‘experience’. The retreat was a weekend I will never forget; filled with newfound friendships and comfort-zone-pushing activities. The buddy events were also unforgettable; I think the only people having more fun than the PFO teens were the buddies. Chris, who was my buddy, was truly a joy to be around and enjoyed laughing and making other people laugh (he was very good at both). In addition to these events, I learned a ton about how to approach people I didn’t know and deal with the many business aspects of a non-profit. My PFO experience has been incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it is only the beginning. I am looking forward to my time to come with Playing For Others.
I became interested in Playing For Others when I heard about the 2009 Songwriting Competition. I entered on a whim, not really knowing what to expect. I fell in love with PFO right away, and knew I wanted to be a part of it.
One of the first things I noticed about PFO was how welcoming everyone was. I thought being the new kid would be tough, as I was coming into an organization where everyone had been friends for a while. But at PFO I have never felt out of place.
I was also amazed at the level of commitment everyone had. Never had I seen kids so excited to be helping others.
So far, this journey has been amazing. I’ve met a lot of great people, and I’ve learned so much from my buddy. She’s only eleven, and yet she’s already so unselfish. She told me once that this wasn’t about her– it was about her younger siblings. If everyone had her attitude, the world would be a better place.
I’m so glad that I was introduced to PFO, because I feel like it’s made me a better person. I’m working with other people who want to help make a difference in the lives of children. Seeing teens being so selfless is really incredible, because that’s so hard to find in today’s society. I’ve grown in a lot of ways, and I have everyone involved in PFO to thank for that.
My journey with PFO began this year. I have never been so excited about something.
I first became interested in PFO a couple of years ago when a lot of my friends had started. I never actually got the guts to sign up until this year. It’s probably one of the best decisions I have made so far in my life. The people that I have met have been so nice and accepting. I really love being part of such a great organization that really helps people.
I was one of the park kids who met Jen that first hot summer across from the band shell and thought, “What a nifty idea!” Now. I know how truly amazing Playing for Others is and has been for the teens, parents, buddies, and families involved.
Throughout my time in PFO, I have grown into a stronger leader and friend. I have begun to accept anyone and everyone, not looking down on someone because they are different or because they seem a little wacky in their own way. I have also grown as an actor, overcoming challenges in the roles I’ve played and feeling enlivened by the spirit of the stage.
My time at PFO has been of immense importance to my life in the past, present, and most definitely in the future. I will take what I have learned for the rest of my passionate journey through life and create change in my own way.
Inspiring. Challenging. Exciting. Crying (at EVERY check ceremony). Beautiful. Fun. Amazing (people, friends, advisors, experiences, and the list could go on).
Just a few words to describe my story in PFO. I am a proud member of a group of sixty-three wonderful teens creating positive change within the community through the power of the arts.
I was a 14 year old freshman when the words “Playing for Others” were first introduced to me. At first I really had no idea of what it was, except that it was a dream. It was the dream of Jen Band, a director and teacher I had worked with at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. She invited several other teens that she knew from around the Charlotte area to come together to make this dream of hers come alive…and PFO was born! During that very first PFO meeting, I don’t think I had any idea as to how PFO would change my life. All I knew was that I was going to be using my love and passion for the theatre to help create a change in the community.
That very first year was exciting, thrilling, and many lessons were learned. I was the Chair of the Community Outreach Committee and all of the teens and Advisors involved that year were starting from scratch. We had nothing to jump off of because we were brand new However, we did have a passion; a passion that would eventually lead us to raise $23,000 for LifeSpan–a place that transforms the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities. I was shocked and could not believe everything that we had accomplished. This brand new organization took Charlotte by storm, and I got to be a part of it. After we handed LifeSpan the check that weekend, a whole flood of emotions filled me up: I just had the time of my life performing as “Lucy Van Pelt” in the PFO show, ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’, I just created incredible relationships with Advisors and my fellow PFO teens, and I got to do all of this while creating change for the community. There was no better feeling in the world. I left that 2006-2007 Playing for Others Season motivated to impact the world, and could not wait for the next year.
My sophomore year arrived and Playing for Others began, but it was a very different organization than it had been before. Having had one year under our belt, PFO was much more organized and felt more official. We had done this the year before, so we came back with a foundation to build off of. Not only were we working to raise money for children at the Down Syndrome Association of Charlotte (DSAC), but all PFO teens were paired with their own buddy from the DSAC. This thrilled me. My love for children and my passion for the arts completely came together as one. This made the experience all the more personal and enabled us to witness the change we were creating for these kids first hand. As the Arts Festival Weekend neared, PFO committee meetings and rehearsals for “A Year with Frog and Toad” became more intense and before we knew it, opening night was here. At the end of the weekend, we handed the Down Syndrome Association a check for $25,000. Another incredible year of PFO came to a close.
While I was getting ready for my Junior Year of high school to begin, I was getting ready for year three of PFO as well! I was also thrilled to be named President of the Teen Executive Board. For me, the more active I was in the organization, the more accomplished I feel with myself, so I was completely honored and could not wait to begin. I had an incredible buddy who lit up the world with her smile, and I was able to witness the growth of Playing for Others. The Arts Festival Weekend now incorporated a concert, the visual arts, and the traditional musical. I just kept thinking to myself, “Look at how far we have come since our very first year.” That feeling was unbelievable. After an incredible week performing as “Ida” in ‘Honk the Musical’ and witnessing all of the change PFO was making at The Neighborhood Theatre, we were able to raise $15,000 to Easter Seals United Cerebral Palsy. Out of the three years of PFO’s existence, that year was by far the most influential on my life. I learned so many things throughout that year that I will forever carry with me throughout my life.
Now I am a Senior. It is scary and strange to think that this is my last year of being a teen in Playing for Others, especially since I have been here since the very beginning. I was so honored at the start of the season to be named Co-President of the Teen Executive Board aka “The A-Team” and love every minute I spend with my fellow PFO Teens. The energy and spirit of everyone involved in Playing for Others is indescribable and everyone should know how special this organization is. It has changed my life in every aspect and has taught me things that I will never learn in a classroom. It is by far the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me in my life and I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year brings! :]
Once upon a time is how all fairytales began, and that’s exactly how mine with Playing for Others begins. Many know the story of how PFO started at Freedom Park, with a crazy dream to create change through the power of arts, well, just like a fairytale that dream has come true and here is my journey.
Although this will be my fourth year with PFO, it stills feels new and different each time. The first time I heard about PFO I said “sure, why not?” I truly had no idea of what I was getting into and how much I would not only change others lives, but my own. I can honestly say that I would not be the same person I am today without PFO. Each year with PFO I learn something new and wonderful about people in general. I have experienced the power of children with amazing hearts and strength. I have been there when someone is truly happy and you not only see it but also feel it. PFO has not just given me amazing experiences but incredible life lessons as well. Personally, I love the business side of PFO. I have learned lesson that many people never learn until they are adults, and sometimes never. PFO has only been apart of my life now for four years, but I feel as though it is one of the most important things in it.
My journey with PFO has been amazing, challenging, eye opening, wonderful, and life changing!
Through my time with Playing for Others I have learned that…
The two Most important words are: Thank You.
The one Most important word is: We.
And the Least important word is: I.
P.F.O has taught me to treat people with disabilities as individuals. My interactions with the kids have shown me that their disability doesn’t define them; it merely makes up the smallest part of their enormous personalities. I find that in general people are scared of disabilities because they are unsure of how they themselves will respond to people society deems “different.” They think looking will be “staring” and that interaction is impossible. P.F.O challenges us to throw our own inhibitions aside, and to give kids something irreplaceable– acceptance and inclusion. P.F.O encourages me to live outside the restrictions of society’s filter and to “make my own cool.” Perhaps the greatest thing P.F.O has taught me is that no matter what, a loud and cheesy cheer is always appropriate! I gotta hand it to them; they brought out the extrovert in the extrovert!
My name is Daniel Morrice. I am incredibly proud to say that I am an original member of Playing For Others. I can’t even begin to imagine who I would be now, if I had not been invited to that very first meeting four years ago. Talk about life changing. Very cliché sounding, but it is impossible to describe it any other way. So many people I have meet, so much confidence I have built, and so honored I have been to get the chance to affect others in the way we do. Being from the first year, I realize how much the organization has grown and changed along with the teenagers who work in it. I look at myself now, in comparison to who I was four years ago. Yes, I have grown as all teenagers do, developing my own opinions and values, making choices, and gaining confidence to tackle things on my own. But through PFO, I’ve learned more about the world around me and to become less self centered (as some teenagers become). I have been exposed to view people differently, to look beyond appearance. I’ve learned that I have an incredible amount of power, and if I choose to use it, an incredible effect on this world. I’ve learned that every person, no matter how much I disagree with or dislike, is a person and should be treated as such. Again, cliché lessons, but it’s incredible how much this program has opened my eyes. I have played roles in two of the PFO theatre productions, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “A Year with Frog and Toad”, and last year I was a part of the Art Experience. I have served on the “Historians” committee, “Publicity” committee, and this year I am working in the “Costumes” committee. I attend Myers Park High as a sophomore and plan to be a part of PFO up until my senior year.
When I was in 10th grade, I made a decision that would forever change my life. I decided to join Playing For Others. I was right in the middle of deciding who I was and what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to be perceived. At the time, I had discovered my love of all things creative. I love to sing and act and dance, but still I was missing a little of something. I was still a little shy and not really willing to completely reach out to new things yet.
This all changed when I joined PFO. Suddenly I was making a whole slew of new friends and not only breaking out of my shell, but bursting through it with life and purpose. I realized I wanted to lead. I wanted to work harder than I ever had before and I wanted to succeed. I loved my buddy and I loved what we, as an organization, did. I never had really felt a passion like this yet. It took my love of theatre and music and art and applied it to not only my life but also the lives of others. I could use these newfound passions to benefit others and not just myself. I was away from the divas and the obnoxious attitudes of so many others my age. While discovering all of this in that whirlwind first year, what I didn’t realize was that my buddy was giving me even more than I was giving him.
Moving into my second year, I knew I wanted a bigger part of this organization in my life. I wanted to take on more responsibility. I applied to be a Chair or Secretary, and after a revealing interview and application process, I was thrilled to become Chair of the Tech Team committee. This was a brand new step for me. I would be leading my own peers to create costumes for the Arts Festival Weekend Theatre Experience. I also got to attend the Teen Board Meetings, in which we discussed all aspects of PFO. And yet, with all this new responsibility, I yearned for even more. After the first couple of Teen Board meetings, we decided to vote a small Teen Executive Board into effect, consisting of a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. I was honored and excited to be voted as the Vice President. This new leadership filled that yearn that I had. I now found myself in deep discussions with the other Teen Exec members and Jen about the very future of the organization itself. We were deciding how leadership was going to work. We were discussing interviews and mentor programs and all sorts of exciting opportunities. And luckily, I understood that I was being given an opportunity that very few are given in their entire lives. I was directly and very personally effecting the growth of an organization that I love and care deeply about. I never would have imagined that I would have come this far in only two years in the organization.
This year, I was voted on to a brand new development, the Teen Executive Committee, or “A-Team”. The idea had come out of the Teen Executive Board from the previous year, but spread out into an entire committee of amazing, talented, thoughtful, inspiring leaders. Together, we have literally run several events, meetings, and jobs within the organization. I’ve learned what it’s like to go behind the scenes while being an up-front leader as well. It has been a completely new, but incredible experience. I have had the absolute honor of being such a huge part of this organization.
I started Playing for Others way back in year one. I was drawn to the idea of doing a play to raise money for children with disabilities. It went above and beyond my expectations!
The first year was just the play, nothing else. We did You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, I played Woodstock, and we raised an incredible amount of money for Lifespan. Year two, Jen had an amazing idea; pair each teen up with a buddy from the organization. That year was hard for me though. I saw all my friends building strong relationships with their buddies, and my buddy didn’t seem to like me. I was discouraged. But that didn’t last for long, because last year, year three, I met my amazing new buddy Maddy! She was everything I could hope for. She was playful, happy, and friendly. It was probably the best experience with PFO that I’ve had. She wasn’t just a “buddy”, she was a friend. If she didn’t want to play with the other kids, that was okay. We still had a great time.
And now, here we are in year four. The organization has grown so much! There’s now a visual art, music, and theatre experience! But the most important thing is that when you’re at PFO and you look around, you see other teens that care. They’re not just hanging out, gossiping, and being rude. They’re truly absorbed in the mission. You can’t help but smile! It’s exactly how I feel with Molly, my 2010 buddy. She is so enthusiastic and her presence just brightens my day. Every minute spent with her is a minute cherished. I have been newly reminded this year that it’s not about the money that we raise. It’s not about what part we get in the show. It’s not about hanging out with our PFO friends. It’s about our buddies. That’s who we’re raising the money for. That’s what all of this is about. So I’d just like to give a shout out to my buddy. I love you Molly. Thanks for being my best friend!
My experience with Playing for Others is crazy to even think about. I heard about PFO through a cast mate giving me the website. I was eager to join and start the season. I was astounded by how welcoming and passionate everyone was. Playing for Others has become an amazing opportunity for me to spread my wings. Playing for Others has allowed me to meet and communicate with new friends and also to give back to my community through doing something that I love. I have learned so much already and I hope that throughout the next few years, I will continue to learn and mature with my PFO family beside me.
My name is Leah Whitehead, I first heard of Playing for Others two years ago through my brother’s friends. I have always enjoyed the arts and although I am not particularly artistic I wanted to get involved with our community. I learned about PFO and the way that they chose to make a difference in the world and I was immediately interested. I started by talking to people I knew who were in it and that just drew me in more. After going to last year’s theatre experience performance of Honk, I knew that PFO was definitely something I should pursue. Going into high school I wanted to start getting more experience with working with different kinds of people. This need was fully satisfied when I learned how to approach corporate sponsors, how to work effectively with kids who are developmentally disabled, and even how to get things done with the many teens and advisors who are involved in PFO. Now that I’m involved I not only find myself in an environment where I feel comfortable but I am surrounded by many kids who, like me, want to rise above expectations and make a difference. I would strongly encourage anyone to get involved with PFO not only because it’s a non profit organization but because the people are so passionate about doing what they do. I am a first year PFO member and the program has and will continue to make a difference in my life and the lives of those we serve.
It’s been a little over a year since I first heard about Playing For others. My two friends, Gabriella and Julia, had joined and were talking about the upcoming songwriting competition. Since I don’t write music or play an instrument I didn’t really think anything more about it. But it wasn’t until I went to the songwriting competition and the play HONK did I really find out what PFO was about. Yes, I had heard about what Playing for others did, but seeing it in person is entirely a different experience. For the first time in a long time I saw a group of teenagers that not only wanted to change and impact their community, they were actually doing something about it. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a part of PFO.
After I found out I had been asked to be a part of Playing For others I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled when I met all the other people in Playing For Others. Everyone has been so kind and accepting and it truly has challenged me to go out of my way when I’m not at a PFO event to do the same.
At the retreat they revealed which committee we would be a part of for the upcoming year, I was put on the winter ball committee. To be honest I was a little apprehensive about being in the winter ball committee seeing as I’m not much of the planning type. But once we started getting to work I can’t even explain how much I enjoyed it! We were all challenged to contact spaces as well as use our creativity for decoration and theme ideas, which stretched me.
Although I would have to say that my favorite thing about Playing For Others is the buddy program. I remember when Jen counted down the seconds till we could open our letter and find out who our buddy would be for the year. My letter revealed my buddy and her several interests which I soon found out were passions. My buddy Caroline has cerebral palsy, which in her case means she has limited movement in her legs. However Caroline doesn’t let this affect her at all, she plays baseball and football and wears the most inspiring smile while she is doing anything. I never thought that a nine year old would have such an impact on my life but Caroline has inspired me more than any other human being. I don’t think of Caroline as someone with cerebral palsy, I think of her as talented and fierce girl who wears her walker as an accessory.
Playing for Others has truly helped me break out of my comfort zone and apply my talents to better myself and the community. I am truly grateful for this experience and Jen for making it possible.
My name is Rebecca. My family has been into the arts for as long as I can remember. My dad is an art teacher, most of my siblings are musically gifted, and all of the kids in the Moore family find their home on the stage. But, did it ever cross my mind that I could use my talent not only for God’s glory, but in a way that can help out other people? Nope. But now, that’s the only way I see it.
It’s amazing that becoming friends with a child with a disability can make you see life differently. My very first buddy, Kaitlin, made such an impact in my life that I can’t see her as anything other than a beautiful, energetic, talkative 4 year old girl. All of my buddies have found their way into my heart and I shall remember them forever.
Playing for Others has had a big impact on my life since day one, in Freedom Park, when Jen told us that she had an idea. It has changed the way I view and accept other people; it has made me more comfortable with telling people that I don’t know about something that means a lot to me; it has shown me that when something needs to be done, I need to do it and not wait for someone else. PFO has taught me, and so many of my new best friends, lessons that we will carry on with us forever. It has shaped my plans for my future and it will never leave me. Not if I have a say in it.
Becoming a new member of PFO in its second year, I was immediately put into the position of Secretary of the Material Advertising committee. At first, I was scared and confused; I had never had a responsibility quite like that before and I didn’t really know what to do. But with the help of my amazing chair and the guidance of Jen Band, I learned quickly how to help guide my committee into a successful year and to become a leader in our community.
With this knowledge (and a year to look through the opposite side of the spectrum as a regular committee member), I was recognized as a leader with great potential and was chosen to be apart of the Teen Executive Committee. Not knowing how great of an honor this was or how much work I was expected to do, I viewed this position somewhat as a “secretary to Jen.” I was completely proven wrong. Although this PFO season is only half over, I have already learned more about leadership than I had in a whole year of being Secretary. Being the youngest member in the Teen Executive Committee by a few years, I can now see how much I have grown in my three years in Playing for Others and couldn’t be happier that I have come this far, with so much more ahead.
I heard about PFO through my friend Emily Moore at school. She’d been in PFO for a few years and said it was an amazing organization that taught you all sorts of life skills and gave you unforgettable experiences. Turns out she was right. I will never forget how to address an envelope and I finally know what “cc” means on my email. PFO taught me that I’m more powerful and connected than I originally thought. It gave me the chance to give the community, the organization, the buddies, and my peers parts of me that otherwise may not have had the chance to give. What’s meant the most to me, however, is getting to become a good part of my buddy’s life. Now, when Miguel thinks of other kids, Sarah A. and I are two more people that he’s happy to think about and that he’s comfortable with. PFO is really the only medium I can think of that makes relationships like this possible. By giving these friendships the opportunity to begin and develop in such open, friendly environments (as opposed to say, a school environment), the comfort for both myself and my buddy is already there. As I move on to college somewhere in the big world, I know that I will take the values I have learned and the friendships I have formed with me and I can’t wait to come back and visit my buddy.
My bestest friend; Miss Abigail Moore introduced me to PFO. I knew a couple of people when I joined, from CTC OnStage. I was ecstatic! These were the people that I had admired for years. Looking back, they were all very different, but they shared one magnetic quality; they were all cheerfully inclusive. It was the best feeling to know that I could be a part of something with the people that I had always looked up to!
It’s comforting to know, when you look at the faces around you, that these are the people that will catch you when you fall, and set you back on your feet with a smile on your face. I can laugh with them, and have fun! Singing, rolling on the floor, breaking down doors, and living moment by moment.
But PFO is not just about spending time with your friends; it’s about creating change. I think the fact that I am making a difference in someone’s life is one of the most important things that I will get out of PFO!
For some people life is a concrete path, and they leave no trace on it. For others it’s made of sand and you can turn around and see the footprints you left behind.
PFO for me was something that my sister would foolishly get up on a Saturday morning and do for 2 hours, or tats at least what I thought it was. I never really knew much about PFO other than that a lot of my friends were involved and that whenever I saw Jen she’d be like “Michael, are you doing PFO next year”. My response was always maybe I’m not sure yet, which really meant no. Then I went to the check presentation of that year and I could literally feel the emotions on the stage and that it was more than just teens helping kids w/ disabilities…it was about teens helping themselves and giving other teens friendships that would last. By the time the check presentation was over with tears rolling down my face. I told myself that I have to do this, that anything that held that much emotion for all those people truly must be something special.
I’ve known about PFO for a long time. My sister, Morgan, has been involved since the organization first began and has always raved about how much she loves it. I’ve watched the teenagers in PFO and thought about what great people they are, and how they are all so well rounded and devoted. It wasn’t until last year that I thought about joining, but as I entertained the idea of me in Playing for Others, I was uncertain. Even though I loved everything that PFO stood for, I didn’t want to be seen as “Morgan’s little sister,” I wanted to be Molly. Despite my anxiety, Morgan and all her friends got me super psyched to join, and I’m glad I did. Being in PFO has given me something to be passionate about. I’ve realized that passion really isn’t how many hobbies you collect or all your creative achievements compiled into an impressive list. Passion is loving something and taking action with it, using it to impact everyone around you. Seeing my buddy laughing, or watching my committee get excited about our new ideas–those things have made me passionate. Playing for Others has done that for me.
Katie Plant is a senior at Northwest School of the Arts, where she major’s in Musical Theater. She was a Girl Scout for twelve and earned her Gold award. She is a part of many clubs at her school her favorite’s being key club, knitting club and the Gay-Straight alliance. She participates in many productions both in school and in community theatre. She hopes to attend Appalachian or Chapel Hill in the fall to be a theater teacher. Katie really enjoys PFO because she is able to connect to a child and make new friends through something that means so much to her, which are the arts!
This past Saturday two teens stood up in front of 61 of their peers and led a committee meeting. They gave clear concise direction, they were bouncing back and forth between each other, they were calm and confident, and the passion for what they were doing was evident in every ounce of their being. When the meeting was over, both of them were beaming – so incredibly proud of the work they had done.
What’s interesting is that these two teens had met with me the night before for what turned into a 3 hour meeting to prepare for their 1 hour in front of the group. Step by step we went through and outlined the meeting logically, brainstormed & designed the individual exercises, discussed and practiced how to give clear directions using cues, and talked about how to balance the energy of the room through body language and vocal cues. Can you imagine having this kind of training as a 10th & 11th grader?
Each week two teens from the Teen Executive Committee have the opportunity to learn and practice how to effectively lead a group. It’s definitely a challenge, but an incredible learning opportunity in a safe, positive space. Then as we break in the middle of that meeting, twelve more teens step up and lead their smaller group of 8-10 peers in individual committee meetings while being supported and guided by their Adult Advisor.
PFO is training a new kind of teen. A teen who learns how to be an effective communicator, one who isn’t afraid to stand up in front a roomful of their peers and one who is learning that leading isn’t always as easy as it looks. So for next week’s committee meeting I’ll sit in the back of the room and get teary eyed once again. After all, I am watching the future leaders of America…and they are beautiful.
The Juke Box Hero of old has given way to Rock Band, and the modern day Guitar Hero. We all just wanna be big rockstars (and live in hilltop houses, driving fifteen cars!*) But the opportunity to create and perform original music remains a privilege for the talented, hard-working, or otherwise lucky, right?
Not if you’re a PFO teen!
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Playing for Others teens are wildly talented and extremely hard-working. They also emanate a passion for both the arts and their organization that is unmatched by the luck of any Hollywood hopeful. And they understand (and are committed to) something that is innate to music… the power we all have to change lives, moment by moment.
In the 2010 Music Experience, we will focus on exploring and interpreting the teens’ experiences with their buddies and fellow PFO teens, their reflections upon their personal growth challenges, and the moments they’ve made strong choices to enhance the acceptance of others. With the guidance of professional songwriters, we will craft original music to perform at the culminating Music Experience concert at The McGlohon Theatre on March 13th.
The PFO Music Experience will break down as follows:
Week 1 – Songwriting. We’ll explore ideas, through focused free writing, journaling, brainstorming and collaborating to uncover possible themes, melodies and metaphors. Professional musicians will share their experiences and favorite songwriting tools. By the end of Week 1, we will have written lyrics and melodies for our PFO theme songs.
Week 2 – Development. We’ll flesh out our ideas, settle on song arrangements and choose instrumentation. We’ll begin to make decisions about the sound and style of performance for each song. Professional musicians will help guide our planning, by teaching us about various song styles and arrangements. By the end of Week 2, we will have our PFO theme songs crafted.
Week 3 – Rehearsal time! With the help of professional musicians, we will rehearse our brand new, original PFO theme songs. We’ll explore performance techniques, including connecting with the audience, listening, and playing with others (pun intended). By the end of Week 3, all Music Experience teens will have a role in the performance or implementation of our PFO theme songs.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about the Music Experience! I look forward to creating with you.
*thanks to Nickelback for those clever lyrics!
The Visual Arts Experience will be expanding to new horizons this year. Playing for Others teens who participate in this experience will have the opportunity to collaborate on an installation art piece (to be mounted at Amelie’s French Bakery & Café), learn about different media and artistic perspectives as well as have the opportunity to meet and discuss art with local working artists.
We are also excited to be hosting a juried art show competition that will be open to local non-PFO teens. This will help not only to raise awareness, but will also act as a fundraiser for PFO.
Over the rehearsal period in February, teens in the Visual Arts Experience will be working collaboratively to express this year’s theme of “Moment by Moment”. We will be working on one sculptural installation from concept to design to execution. Teens will also hear from local artists who will come to share about their work and what it means to be an artist. With each visiting artist we will be able to discuss and experiment with different media and types of visual art.
For the PFO Juried Art Show Opening on March 20th, teens will learn what it is like to hang a professional show and to work with professional gallerists and curators. They will have the opportunity to put up the artwork submitted for the show and to place their own collaborative installation within the space. In addition to this, the PFO teens will learn the business side of facilitating an art show.
The Visual Arts Experience will be a great growing and learning adventure for any teen interested in becoming an artist or who simply loves visual art and would like to know more. It promises to be an incredible opportunity within PFO to use art to inspire change.