Week 34: How do you say “Ice Bucket” in French?

Project: Ice Bucket Challenge (In Week 33)

Actual Time Taken: 0 (But I donated!)

This week, the bandwagon was filled with ice.

And, of course, I jumped in.

(Granted, I did it a week ago, therefore I can’t count it for Week 34… we were busy making our move from DC to Montreal, hence the French reference…. but still…)

I don’t think any of us realized the level of furor to which dumping cold water on yourself would reach a few weeks ago. Now there’s been a million takes on the meme…. and are we any better for it?

Not sure. And I’m also not sure it’s a discussion I’m versed well enough in to partake. But I do know that I was asked by a co-worker to help film a challenge for our cast. And being the hard-core team-player that I am (and being the weirdo who loves doing things with her cast) I immediately, and without forethought, said yes.

As most of my major life decisions go, it seems.

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Mid-dump.

I dumped this below-average-temperature water over my head on Saturday, August 16th, so technically in Week 33… but my brothers completed the challenge in Week 34 and challenged me, so I donated money in Week 34.

But this is where the cold waters get a bit muddy.

My older brother Danny completed the challenge (in typical goofy form) and challenged me. I accepted the challenge, but uploaded our video and pointed out the fact that I had already completed the challenge with my cast mates the week before and linked to our video.

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Danny in flippers for the Ice Bucket Challenge. Nerd.

To which he replied that I simply had to do it again.

So, the smart ass I am, I re-nominated him.

And the smart ass he was responded that that wasn’t allowed.

Wait what? Just who is making up these rules?

These rules being that you had a mere 24 hours to either donate $100 to the ALS Association OR have freezing liquid dumped on your head. And apparently if you’re re-challenged, you have to do it again, and again, and again. (Well, at least according to my brother)

My thoughts on this Ice Challenge are this: I think it’s fun. I think it’s a great way to raise awareness of a disease that was barely in the social conversion up until now, not to mention miles away from the Facebook posts of our youth. I’ve heard more and more people around me asking “What is ALS anyway?” … usually shortly before dumping copious amounts of cold liquid over their heads.

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… one bucket of ice at a time.

Yet I’m not sure how effective this particular campaign was at it’s goal. (What WAS it’s goal, anyway? Check out the man who started it and his incredible, inspiring story here.)

Yes, more people are donating, with one source saying that the ALS Association has received $4 million, as opposed to just $1.2 million from the same period last year. And while a lot of people who found themselves cold and wet did donate as well as participate, the overall message of the challenge seemed to be “I would rather dump ice cold water on my head than donate to a good cause.”

There didn’t seem to be much serious discussion about what ALS was, how it affects people, or if the charity in question was effective in it’s overall mission. (Thankfully, according to Charity Navigator, it seems to be)

Some people spun it to help out other charities, and others pointed out the enormous waste of water it was to dump bucket after bucket of clean water over people’s heads, with no one pointing this out more effectively than Matt Damon.

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Spoiler alert.

Bottom line: I personally like that these ‘do good’ trends are coming into fashion. KONY 2012 and the Ice Bucket Challenge are a few examples of this viral campaigning, despite the fact that a lot of people remain uneducated on the subject.

But here’s the thing- the people that blindly dumped water on their heads (guilty as charged) without doing proper research first are of two kinds, in my opinion- either the kind of person who would just record a video or donate to jump in an icy-cold bandwagon and leave it at that, and the kind of person who would record a video or donate and continue to research ALS and find out it’s symptoms, how it affects people, and what the charity is doing for the cause.

The people that wouldn’t research are probably also the type of people that also takes CNN news reports at face value, ingest Hearst newspaper stories without a second thought, and don’t have much of a critical thinking capability in the first place. So they wouldn’t do the research anyway. But at LEAST now ALS is something that they are at least slightly more familiar with and so to me, overall, that has to be a win, even as slight as it is.

So, to assuage any leftover guilt that I may be harboring, here’s some facts on ALS!

– Every day, 15 people are diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease

– ALS is NOT contagious, affects people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds

– ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, meaning that over time, motor cells that connect the brain to muscles die off. As these cells die, motor skills are lost, and eventually lead to paralysis and death.

– The life expectancy of ALS patients after diagnosis is an average of two to five years, although some patients (around 20 percent) have been known to five years or more.

– Currently, there is research into drugs that are extending life expectancy of people living with ALS.

– Currently, there is no cure for ALS.

But what can we do? (Besides dump buckets of water on our heads, of course.)

Got five minutes?

– Educate yourself on ALS. Even skimming the Wikipedia will make you more versed in this disease than most.

– Post some facts on your Facebook. Spread the knowledge. Make it into an inspiring image. Let people know what all the dousing was about in the first place.

Got an hour?

Sign up for a Walk to Defeat ALS. You can walk your way to a cure, and also cash in on the trend of doing all kinds of crazy races.

Volunteer at a local ALS Association chapter. They’re always looking for a few good helpers.

Ready to commit to the cause?

Get creative and start your own fundraiser!  From running a marathon to hosting a bake sale to selling spray painted trash as art- anything to raise a dollar for the cause will help!

Or even better yet, start your own version of the Ice Bucket challenge. I can’t wait to see what’s next- a litter box dump on the head for the Humane Society perhaps?

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Week 33: DC Children’s Hospital Visit

Project: Children’s Hospital visit for the Lion King

Actual Time Taken: 1 hour

 

What do Chris Pratt and I have in common?

 

Probably a lot. 

 

But one thing that we both did a few weeks ago was visit Children’s Hospitals! (Granted, he went as Star Lord from Gaurdians of the Galaxy and I went as “That Little Asian Dancer in the Lion King Tour,” but still…)

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This post is Chris Pratt approved. (I assume.)

And I know it sounds strange, but I legitimately get excited to visit a Children’s Hospital. There are so many sad stories, difficult situations, and sick kids that it’s hard to imagine being excited to visit such a place. But every time we as a cast get a chance to visit, I look forward to it.

 

I’m excited to see the smiling faces of the kids facing seemingly insurmountable odds. I can’t wait to sit and talk to the weary parents and connect with them on such a human level though such a surreal theatrical show such as ours. I always hope to find someone who not only knows our show (as most everyone we meet as at least seen the animated movie once) but who is also passionate about dance, music, theater, or any of the arts.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 2.53.38 PMMy cast mates making a difference! Love my co-workers!

This past visit did not disappoint. We arrived early in the morning (9:45 am is the crack of dawn for us night-owl entertainers!) and were ushered into a small arts and crafts room. Some of the patients were already coloring away on the lion masks that Disney had sent ahead, and stopped outlining the mane of the mask in purple and pink long enough to shoot us quick, shy smiles.

 

We navigated our way though the rolling IV stands, shin-high chair and table sets, and wheelchairs to meet the many mini-smiling faces on their level. One beautiful little girl I sat with was busy coloring in her hospital  gown, and finally placed her aqua and purple colored lion mask on her perfectly bald head with such pride that I couldn’t help but smile.

 

Another young girl I met was also going though some kind of treatment (we tend not to ask and try to keep it on the positive stuff- less diagnoses and doctors, more music and laughter helps to heal, me thinks.) talked to me so openly and happily about her love of singing and music. She said she needed to work on her dancing a bit, and once she was released from the hospital and free of her wheelchair, she would get right on it, to which I encouraged her to keep persuing her dream of being on stage no matter what.

 

But to be honest, my words felt so hollow. What inspiration could I give this strong, brave, beautiful girl who is battling her disease and yet still dreams of a life on stage? I feel like sometimes I get excited to go to these Children’s Hospital visits for a completely selfish reason- because these children always end up inspiring me in the most deep and profound way. People say that us visiting with them our stories of life on the road, giving out Lion King swag, and showing the videos of our show brings so much joy to the children and families dealing with serious illnesses, but the truth is the light that they bring to my life far eclipses anything I could ever offer them.

 

So thank you to the Children’s Hospitals, the Lion King, and the young children and families who are fighting for their health, and still allow a moment of joy to pass between us. These visits always affect me in the most profound way, and I am already excited for my next visit.

 

Maybe next time I’ll go as Gamora for extra fun-zies.

 

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Often mistaken for She-Hulk, I’m sure…

Week 32: Girl Scouting

 Project: Girl Scout Meeting

Actual Time Taken: One Hour

 

Sometimes volunteering can be hard work– building houses for the homeless, picking up trash around a park, sorting heavy cases of canned goods for food banks… and sometimes it can be easy.

 

 

This weeks’ hour of volunteering was definitely of the easy variety.

 

 

I almost don’t want to count the hour of Girl Scout-ing we did as my weekly hour of volunteering. It was far too much fun. And I hang out with my Girl Scout member Hero (singular- we are a small, but mighty troop.) all the time anyway, seeing as she’s my best friend. (yes. I have a 12 year old best friend. She’s like my little sister, sans the annoying little sister stuff.)

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Sister Selfie Realness

But we had a busy week here at work. (Not a good excuse, I know.) We had eight shows (like we always do…) and a four hour rehearsal for the newest dancer girl to be put into the show (also part of the job, can’t use that as an excuse..) and I was just beat. (also lame. But anyway….)


Hero came to the theater between shows on Saturday with her best friend Tenley, who was visiting from New York. Tenley doesn’t have a Girl Scout troop that she participates with, so we inducted her for the afternoon.

   2014-08-09 18.11.34Hero and Tenley with her Scouting notebook and badge

 

First we had some pepperoni pizza for lunch. This is an important point because the one time I went to a Girl Scout meeting as a kid we were served stale, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn, and in that crunchy, tasteless moment, I decided that the Girl Scouts weren’t for me at the time.

 

 

Now that I find myself as a Girl Scout leader, I make sure we have awesome snacks.

 

 

The irony is that after we had the said pizza, we found out that our badge that we are working towards is about being fit and healthy.

 

Oops.

 2014-08-09 18.11.28Tenley also had a bunch of Whoppers. Great nutritional-leader-of-children I am…

 

We flipped though our Junior Girl Scout binder after the delicious (read: unhealthy) pizza and figured out what steps we needed to take to earn Hero her badge. We picked one that required Hero and Tenley to talk to a health care professional about how to stay healthy at their age, and while we waited for a health care professional to show up, we crafted with some copper jewelry wire I had brought, making rings, bracelets, and a couple of pairs of faux glasses.

 2014-08-09 18.05.57Copper glasses. The very-thin-wire variety

 

After we were done with our craft photo shoot, we went up to our Physical Therapists’ office. We travel our own PT for the cast and crew of the Lion King, Dionne Vernon of NeuroTour Physical Therapy. She’s amazing and I swear at times, is single-handedly keeping this show going by keeping injuries at bay.

 

 

Hero and Tenley talked to Dionne about how to stay healthy, how and why growing pains happen (did you know your bones don’t grow from the center but from either end of the bone?! I certainly didn’t!), and how important stretching and staying active is to a young, growing body such as theirs.

 2014-08-09 18.22.41Health chat- check.

 

I swear I must have learn as much from Dionne as those girls did. I think it’s one of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout leader- I get as much out of the meetings and badge activities as the girls do!

 

 

Learning + Volunteering = Double win.

Turning our Grief into Good – In honor of Robin Williams

In the afternoon of August 11th, my Facebook feed exploded with collective grief. Quotes from “Hook,” pictures of a big, blue genie, and personal recollections of what Robin Williams and his work meant to my friends filled my entire feed.

As I was scrolling though the virtual memorial that suddenly populated the internet, I felt so disappointed that such a brilliant man passed away in such a tragic, and ultimately preventable way. I started researching suicide prevention, mental illness stigma in society, and was beginning to feel inspired enough to try and make a difference for this cause.

I thought about all of my friends on Facebook who seemed to share my sadness, and began to formulate the idea for an article about how we could all help people with mental illness or suicidal thoughts in our community. Research ensued, and as I was talking to one of my friends about it, he quipped that the people on Facebook didn’t actually care. “Did any of them know him personally? No. They aren’t really that broken up about it, so they probably aren’t going to do anything about it either.”

This struck me as a strange, and possibly true statement. Yet somehow, I was deeply affected by Robin Williams’ passing, and I have to say, I do believe that my friends posting status updates of the deep emotional connection they had to the movie “Toys” were deeply affected too.

So I say: let’s prove my friend wrong. I believe… no I KNOW that there are those out there that were affected enough by his unexpected death and inspired enough to take one, five, even twenty minutes to make a difference in honor of one of our favorite fallen stars.

Robin Williams’ legacy of comedic genius will always remain, but now we have a chance to create another legacy- a legacy of good for the mental illness community to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. In fact, his wife released a beautiful statement just today stating that “Robin spent so much of his life helping others… It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

So let’s honor the memory of this amazing man and do our part to make the world a little bit better. Let me know what you chose to do with your moment of good in the comments, and I’ll try to capture the look of shock on my friends’ face when I tell him how much good we all got done in Robin William’s honor.

Got just One Minute?

– Post something uplifting to your Facebook wall. You never know who is having a bad day (or worse) and the joy it may bring. Let your friends know that you are a safe place to come to if they are in need emotionally. (And if you aren’t, you know where to send them…)

– Send someone a quick, happy, loving text. Even if you haven’t spoken in years. (all the better!) Let them know they’re on your mind, that they’re special, that they smell good… whatever you think would spread some happiness. The more joy that is out there, the more good can be in the world as a whole.

Got Five Minutes? 

– Make a donation to one of the not-for-profit numerous charities that help people struggling with suicidal thoughts. Even a dollar makes a difference, and if you’re on a budget, I the good karma you get for your donation will help you live without your Starbucks fix for one day.

– Sign a pledge to stop stigmatizing mental disorders. Make a promise to yourself to help create a more open and inviting environment for people to come forward for the treatment of mental illnesses.

Got Twenty Minutes?

 Educate yourself about mental illness. Here’s a wonderful article on increasing the awareness of mental illness in the wake of this tragedy. The more you know and understand, the more you can help and stop ostracizing people (even unwittingly!) struggling with mental illness. (Cue shooting star with a rainbow tail to race above my head.)

– Gather supplies for a care package for the elderly. Depression among the elderly, especially in nursing homes, can be upwards of 50%. A Meals-on-Wheels chapter in San Diego combats this by collecting care packages for their clients’ birthdays and holidays. (Here’s some cool care package theme ideas!) You can send a small package to them, or find a local nursing home to drop off a sweet surprise. (Or better yet, go in and spend twenty minutes visiting! I promise the hilarious stories you will get in return will make it worth the visit!)

Got an Hour?

– Put up flyers around the neighborhood for iFred. This not-for-profit (whose full name is the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression.) is all about sharing a new, more positive perspective on depression to help eliminate the stigma associated with the disease.

– Garden for a Good Cause. Plant a sunflower, or an entire garden, and put up a sign in support of iFred. They use sunflowers as a symbol of a symbol of support for mental illness and depression, so plant your flower and signage in a nice, visible spot!

Ready to commit to the cause?

– Volunteer for a crisis center. This is not for the faint of heart or for the inconsistent. If you feel truly passionate about making a difference for the prevention of suicide, this is the most direct and immediate way to do so. There are so many places that are looking for volunteers, so find a center near you, and make a difference!

One small act really can make a difference, and no matter what you choose to do, let us know in the comments below so I can brag to my friend about how amazing our readers are!

Week 31: Acting for Actors!

Project: Extra Show for the Lion King

Actual Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Every once in a while, the Universe helps me multitask accidentally.

 

For example, last week I found myself simultaneously working and volunteering, courtesy of our Actors Fund performance.

 

Once a year, almost every show on Broadway donates the proceeds of one show to the Actors Fund. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure what the heck the Actors Fund was- it seemed like such a vague name that could cover so many bases. Is it a fund for teaching? Is it a fund for new shows? Is it a fund to teach kids to not go into the rigorous, cut-throat, give-it-all-you-got-all-the-time biz? Who knew.

 

So annually, I would lace up my lioness costume and do the extra show without really knowing what it was for, knowing that my joints would groan with exhaustion at the end of the week from doing nine shows in seven days. But I figured that it was raising funds for a charity that did something for us thespiantypes, and that was good enough for me. This year, however, thanks to this self-imposed volunteering thing I’m doing, I was determined to figure out what the heck we were dancing our butts off for every year once and for all.

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Not just for Thespians!

Turns out, The Actors Fund is a non-profit organization that serves as an umbrella for a series of incredible programs designed to assist everyone who works in entertainment (not just Actors, as the name implies!) who are in need.

 

From social work, to mental health services, to two nursing homes specifically for elderly entertainers and the like, The Actors Fund has us covered in every way possible.

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I can only imagine those senior center skit nights.

 

One of the most inspiring aspects of The Actors Fund is the work with the HIV/AIDS community. The Fund has numerous programs that are specifically for people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as “The Aurora,” which is a supportive housing initiative that helps not only HIV/AIDS patients, but seniors and low-income individuals in our theatrical community as well.

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Look at all this good that they do!!!

You name the need, and The Actors Fund probably has that covered. Reading the list of all of their services made my mind reel, and made me so thankful that we are a part of the program that gives this special place funds.

 

So you can go ahead and sign me up next year and every year after that for an extra show for the good of The Fund. Because I already love dancing in this show anyway, but if I know the profits are going to go to such a good cause, it will make all the exhaustion at the end of the nine-show-week so much sweeter.