Dear Journey Group,

We are halfway through the PFO year and I wanted to share about the journey so far, what I’ve learned, and how PFO has impacted me.

Many things have happened thus far this year that I was told were going to happen. I have gained new friends, created art that I thought I would never have the chance to do, connected with a child with a disability, and wrote part of a book.

Friendship and accepting others is a huge part of PFO. Everyone is just so cheerful and genuine. I was skeptical at first because I was not sure how people would react to, well, let’s say, my weirdness, but I quickly got over that. The retreat at the beginning of the PFO year was really fun, and I am not one for large organized games with hugs and high fives, but to say that I had a wonderful time is definitely saying something. The joy that everyone brought that week is still going strong. I have learned a lot from my new-found friends. For instance, dancing like an idiot is encouraged and being creative and outgoing is required.

So far my Arts Experience has been fun. We have only had a few meetings, but the art that we have managed to create is awesome. On our very first day we did wood burning (and all of you know not to give me any sharp object that can heat up to 500 degrees and say, “have fun”). Needless to say, I was worried not only for my safety, but for those around me as well… but everything ended up fine and we had burned a night sky into a piece of plywood. From then on, we have died silk scarves and created collages. I am really looking forward to the rest of the year. I learned to be patient when dealing with art, it can be frustrating at times, and I have applied that in my ‘out of PFO life’ as well.

I met Molly this year. She is 14 and a Valentine’s Day baby (I just thought that was cool). Molly has Down Syndrome, but that does not at all define her. She is super creative and loves, LOVES, musicals, her favorite being Oklahoma and/or Frozen – she alternates between the two quite frequently. She has really been a joy to hang out with. I have learned many a musical number, including the hand motions to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Molly has taught me so much, like musicals can be fun to sing for no apparent reason besides the sheer joy of singing “Let It Go”, and the color red looks amazing on anything, but most of all she had taught me that having fun is the most important thing in life.

Finally, I have written a book, well, part of one at least. I am part of the Anthology Committee, which is currently in the lead for Committee War Points (Thank you, thank you very much!). This year we interviewed about every single person in PFO, that’s a whole lot of people in case you were wondering. It was such a great experience listening to people say who they were grateful for… one thing that I am unlikely to forget. After interviewing people, we were all tasked with typing up the interviews so that they can be put in a book. FYI, this book is going to look and be awesome. It was so great listening to people talk about those whom they are grateful for.

I feel like I have grown so much in these last few months… I have begun to stand up for others and myself, and I have become more accepting and loving thanks to those at PFO and thanks to all of you.

I hope everyone has an amazing holiday!

In gratitude
Shelby Peres 🙂