I wish you were at our Auction this month.* I had a Proud Parent Moment when my youngest son stood and recited a poem for the room. Really he did more than recite a poem; he lived it and felt it and believed it. I’m watching him grow and receive the gift of presence from the staff we hire, and create relationships where adult artists challenge him to try and to push his boundaries. This was the fruit of the things I have been laboring for, both for Yes! And… Collaborative Arts and for my own child.
This year has been full of highlights, full of moments where we shared our gift of presence with kids who needed it. But this year has not been without a share of hardship. We want to be able to provide more structure and follow up for kids whose families face difficulties. We want our gift of presence to create lasting change in the lives of those we love and serve. Our goals feel so attainable, just right around the corner. But it’s as though we have been revving the engine and the car is still in second gear.
We want to grow and serve kids better and pay our staff a decent wage, but we weren’t able to meet these goals in 2016. We need your faithful support now more than ever. We need you to gift us with your presence. Read through this letter and ask yourself how you and your family could support and sustain this vision.
This year, I want to come to you with testimony from kids and parents, to have them tell our story. Of course, like my experience I shared about my son, there are more than a few of us who started YACA who now have kids attending! We had a really neat moment this summer when we realized that there were five campers whose parents are founders of YACA while at the same time there were four travelers (counselors) who were graduates of YACA! Our program is a gift; a legacy that we pass down to others. At some point soon Leah, our Program Director's 4 year old daughter, will become a camper (fulfilling her short life-long dream).
In this spirit of the season of giving, I asked parents to share with you their kid's impressions about what our gift of presence means to them. Here is what they gave me**:
Yes! And... has become a safe space for my daughter to be completely open and free. It is her happy place. As a mom the support and patience of the staff is so comforting. Reece is her best self at YACA. She’s more than she thought she could be.
Tia, Reece’s mom
Yes! And... is fun and active and the travelers are nice. When I am at Yes! And... I feel happy and excited.
Reece, Age 6
I love YACA because I always have a smile, I’m free to be me. You have been such a great part of my life and you guys have shaped me into the person I am today. I am so thankful, I love you.
Sondra, Shadow Teen
Ajai loves being at Yes! And... Theatre Camp! I just talked with him about it and he says, ‘I like being at the after school program because I don’t have to wait until summer to go to the summer camp! I like being with my friends and doing the theater class on Tuesdays.’ As for me (his mom) I think Yes! And… Collaborative Arts is a great program! It teaches Ajai social skills and to express himself more without feeling intimidated. I’m glad to be a part of YACA! I would love to see Ajai grow into the role of a camp counselor! Ifaye & Ajai, Age 13
Yes! And… Theatre Camp is an awesome experience! I made many amazing friends there. I not only made friends with the kids, I also made friends with the teachers. YACA made acting so much more fun for me and taught me that acting was not just about acting, it’s about telling a story. At YACA camp my imagination would run wild and it made me feel like another person. Ada, Age 12
Yes! And.. is the one place where I am not afraid to show off my smile and extremely loud laughter. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to discover myself here and realize my gifts. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for you. Thanks for giving me a family and making me feel loved. Olivia, Shadow Teen
How do you put words to an experience so amazing and wonderful, where children are encouraged to think outside the box, make silly connections that become realities in a story, where anything really is possible AND then they get to to sing about it? This place is magical and exciting, with new possibilities around every corner. Lights out Beth, James’ (Age 7) mom
Today, we need you to make sure we can continue offering this gift of presence in the lives of these kids. Please consider a one time gift to support our year-end finances, or a monthly gift to support our 2017 goals. If you believe in us, please help ensure that we will be around today, tomorrow, and the coming years to be a presence in this community, in this city, and this world.
Wishing you warmth and love this season,
Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, Executive Director
*If you were at our auction, thanks so much for joining the party, it was such a special night and your care and presence buoyed our spirits and our bank account.
**Names used by permission
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Winter Sort of Thing: Silliest Story Ever Told performed downtown Philly
Shadow Company winners at ESTAFest 2016
New logo & website
Over 200 Summer Camp participants!
Summer Sort of Thing presents: All Hands on Deck - Our first ever outdoor performance
Summer Camp featured on Fox29 "Camp Kelly" segment
Shadow premiers Paper Trail for the FringeArts Festival
New promotional video released - Thanks PHILO Project!
New After School Group program started
Successful Auction + Holiday Party