“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. We started the year with the annual retreat. This year was the first year that it was at Creative Campus downtown, which has made a difference in the retreat in that we could take more liberties-could get messier. Still, the essence of fun and connection with others remained. As it was my second year at the retreat, I knew how it felt to be there and not know a lot of people and to be a little uncomfortable. On the first day of the 2014-2015 retreat, I called to mind all the great teens that helped me come out of my shell a year ago, and I found myself striving to be the same kind of teen at the retreat this year.

During the retreat, I found out my buddy partner was Kaylan Presley, a new teen. Kaylan’s really cool, really laid-back and relatable, and it’s easy to be around her. We met our buddy, Mary Taylor, at the Veteran’s Park Buddy event. I remember last year, one teen’s mom bought snow cones for teens and their buddies, and so this year they had a snow cone truck come into the park. It was a great treat for both the buddies and teens. After all, who doesn’t like snow cones? My experience so far with my buddy this year has been vastly different than with my previous buddy. This is neither good nor bad—just different. Last year my buddy was nonverbal, and my buddy partner Sam and I often had to support her while walking. That didn’t matter. We still had a good time. This year, though, it has been almost the complete opposite. Mary is a sibling, and she’s a first grader, brimming with energy. At the buddy event at ImaginOn, a game of Twister turned into a wrestling match. It was a little crazy, but still fun.

This year, I was on the Anthology Committee. It’s a new committee, and in it we collected stories of gratitude from all sorts of people in PFO. For me, finding out I was in Anthology gave me mixed feelings. I was absolutely ecstatic at getting to write stories. I love storytelling, and I like writing, I even do it on my own time. However, sometimes I have difficulty with getting stuck, and with deadlines. I knew that Anthology would challenge that and I would have to step up. Since then, I have interviewed different teens and staff, and written two of their stories, and one of my own. (You should check it out once it’s out! Check the store at playingforothers.org!) 

I really enjoyed interviewing people. Though sometimes my interview partner and I would use the same questions with different people, I liked trying to read the situation and asking questions that would open the interviewee up more, and bring out answers that weren’t immediately evident. I found that, with the right questions, I could find out a whole new layer of depth to their story so far.
Now, committee meetings are finished, but with the new year coming in also comes Night of Gratitude. I performed in the first Night of Gratitude last year, and I’m so happy that PFO’s doing it again this year! It is such a moving experience, there were multiple performances last year, and I’m pretty sure I cried at all of them. 

I think that’s all! Coming up, I will be working on art pieces with the Visual Art Experience, getting ready for HeARTbeat on April 6! Elsewhere, there’s also the Children’s show starting April 13, and the Musical Theater Show on April 20, both of which I can’t wait to see.
Keep supporting Playing for Others! And show some gratitude!”