I’m Going Live!

Hi friends! So, if you know me at all, you may know I tend to be more a behind the scenes (or behind the screen)  person. But, I was recently given the the opportunity to be featured on Crazy Talk, hosted by the amazing Lee Thomas. Crazy Talk is a podcast that’s broadcast live on Facebook that features open conversation about mental health.  I rarely pass up an opportunity to talk honestly about mental health and my life with rapid cycling cylclothymia, so I’m foraying into the realm of podcast participation!   I’ll be sharing my story/experiences/whatever else we decide to talk about – you’ll have to tune in I guess!

I’m being featured TONIGHT, Wednesday, Oct 10th, at 8PM EST, 6PM Mountain Time. The face that it’s World Mental Health Day makes participating today of all days feel that much more special. So  if you have the chance, tune in – and while you’re at it, give Lee’s page a like!

 

May Is Mental Health Month

Happy May! It’s sunny and getting warmer here in Philly, which is amazing. It’s incredible how much difference a little sun and warmth make, at least to me. While I can certainly battle depression on the brightest, warmest days (because it’s an illness, which doesn’t care about the weather forecast), I usually feel significantly worse in the short, cold days of winter when it’s difficult to even go outside for fresh air. So I’m super excited for the weather to finally be turning.

I haven’t blogged in a little while. I’ve been trying to get my sh*t together, reorganize my thoughts, plus I’ve been traveling in Greece. Side note: if you ever get the chance to go to Greece, go. It’s a gorgeous place, the people are the friendliest, the food is the freshest, and …. just everything about it. You can check out pics on our Instagram.

But I digress. May is Mental Health Month. A cause near and dear to my heart, as most of you know.  Every day my brain wages a battle against me, and every day I win, even if sometimes just barely. I am the one in five adults in the US that has a mental illness. Specifically, I am one of the 0.4-1% of the US population with cyclothymia. There is little known about written disorder, and it’s difficult to find others who have it. It also tends to be pushed aside as “not as big a deal”, which anyone who’s dealt with the rapid cycling nature of the mood cycles knows is inaccurate. The lack of information and difficulty finding others who have it has driven me to do two things – 1.) start my personal  blog over at Lilies and Elephants. 2.) Help others whose causes and/or organizations need exposure. Because nobody should feel like what they’re going through or fighting for is “not a big deal”.

This month, I’ll be focusing on mental health causes and organizations, as well as those causes that can be associated. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Local organizations or projects raising funds or awareness for mental health.
  • Local business partnering with an organization to raise funds or awareness
  • Local, orgs, businesses, or even individual advocates looking to be more involved in mental health and related causes

We want to know about you, and help others to know about you! Zero cost, I promise. It’s just what we do here at SHP.

Questions you may have:

  • Does local mean Philly area where SHP is based? Nope. Just means not a big global or national  company. In other words, we’re a small org helping other small orgs/businesses.
  • Does it really cost nothing? Yep. Our thing is promoting your thing. Or you. Or your cause. That’s how we spread hope. Or at least one of the ways.
  • My cause/project could be related, but I’m not sure. How do I know if my cause/organization/business qualifies? Ask us! You can hit us up on email, Instagram, FB (we’re less frequent on there), or my personal account on twitter.
  • How can you help my cause/project/etc? We can help you tweet, post, and share. We also can add you under our Projects tab on the website, and if you’re interested, we can “interview” you for a blog post. We can also help you with additional ideas specific to your cause/project/event.
  • I know I/my company/my organization want to do something, but I’m not sure what. Can you help? We can. Or at least we can try. Reach out to us at the above.

Mental Health is important. It affects 20 percent of the US adult population, so the chances are, we all know someone affected – even if we don’t know it.  Let’s help erase the stigma and raise awareness together.

 

Pardon the Interruption

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. In addition to loving hope, I also love puns and cheesy word play. So, pardon the interruption in my blogging. It’s been a minute, as I’ve had a lot of exciting things going on. Namely, I got a new jobby job, which has been keeping me pretty busy. And my travel work has simultaneously ramped up (good things come to those who wait, right?), keeping me busy in my spare time.

But I haven’t forgotten about Spread Hope Project. Far from it. I still have my dream of spreading hope as far and wide as possible, and my more  feasible goal of one day turning SHP into a real, living and breathing organization (with more people breathing in it than just myself).  I’m working on giving my mission and vision for SHP a more solid description, because it’s tough to explain what you do with “I just want to help everyone and give them hope.”  The basic idea is, in addition to my photo taking and individual participation in, and organization of, events,  I want to partner with local and hyper-local organizations to help get the word about their work and events as well. A collaboration of sorts.  I want to serve as a resource, a liaison, between local organizations doing charitable work, and people who want to participate in those activities. Because I know first hand that it’s tough as a solo person or small organization with a big dream to compete with the “big guys” (or ladies) when it comes to marking, promotion, and resources. And while social media certainly makes it easier, the more people you have helping you out, the easier it becomes.

So there’s that.  As for myself and Spread Hope Project, here’s a few things that I’ll be personally participating in/doing:

  • I signed up for my 5th Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention. This cause is very personal and incredibly important to me. I’ll be walking 16-18 miles, overnight, this coming June, in no other than my home city of Philadelphia! I have to raise $1000 to walk. So far I’ve raised $315. If anyone’s so inclined, donation link is here.  You can also help in ways that do not include monetary donation, so feel free to reach out to if you’re interested in that.

 

  • I *may* be walking the Get Your Rear in Gear Philadelphia walk for Colon Cancer.  Potentially more coming on that soon. Anyone else in the area planning to walk? Let me know!

 

  • I’m going to Greece in just over a month! I’m attending a conference in Athens, and then heading to Santorini and Crete. Greece has been on my travel bucket list for a long time.  Keep an eye out for copious Spread Hope in Greece photos in the next month or so.

 

  • My family is doing a full fam (20 of us) trip to Stiges, outside of Barcelona, this summer. Just booked the flights for that. I love Barcelona and Spain. It’ll be my second time in six months. I’m super lucky. Again, lots of Spread Hope in Spain pics on the way in the next few months.

 

  • #SpreadHopeAmbassadors program is still happening. If you’re interested, reach out to me! And don’t forget to hashtag those photos!

There’s probably more, but this is running long, so I’ll stop for now.  Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram, where we post each day as part of the #365DaysofHope Campaign!

Peace, love, and HOPE!

~My

Spreading Hope One Cause at a Time

There’s been a ridiculous amount of negative occurrences going on in the world lately. At times, I think it’s easy to feel downright hopeless, or at least struggle to find much hope. I understand it. The number of times lately that the nightly news has had to expand to a multi-hour program to cover the unfolding of disastrous events – natural and otherwise – has been entirely too high. Not to mention the every day life situations we all have to deal with that can bring us down. And for those that battle anxiety and depression, who may already be wrestling with the trying to find hope, the struggle goes even deeper.

But I refuse to give up on hope. I watch the good in people – the people who protect others, complete strangers sometimes, at risk of their own lives. The people I personally know who have traveled to hurricane regions to help out, simply because they want to do something to ease the suffering of people who are losing so much. And then there’s the everyday actions that most people may never even know about – the kid who stands up for another classmate being bullied, the person who quietly helps out an important community cause without any fanfare or desire for recognition. I could go on all day listing examples. These are the people that tell me all is not lost. Good people exist in the world.  We have reason to have hope.

Spread Hope Project is not a huge organization. We don’t have money pouring in. We don’t have hundreds of participants and volunteers. In fact, we are quite far from that. But we can still help. We can still offer hope. So over the next few months, we will be regularly posting causes (via our super high-tech paper and marker hand-made signs), and asking for your suggestions for ways to help. It may be that we are looking to donate school supplies, for instance, and looking for a school that could benefit. It may be that we’re looking for program suggestions for specific causes (say, your suggestions for animal-related causes, for example). It may be a free-for-all cause/organization shout out – name any smaller cause that needs the help but doesn’t get the attention it deserves! We may not be able to help everyone, but we’ll choose at least one suggestion from each post to help. We don’t have a massive amount of funding, so we’re looking for ways to help that aren’t just monetary. It could be volunteering or organizing an event or drive. It could be something as helping in an awareness campaign.

So stay tuned, and make sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook pages for more updates!

 

50 States of Hope

Every day, I read about different community projects happening in my home city of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. It truly inspires me, and I think of the hope that these people are bringing – to those that they’re helping specifically, to the community, and to each other (being surrounding by others wanting to make positive change is certainly hopeful). And hopefully, pun kind of intended, to themselves. I know that for me, the fact that there are good people in the world, nearby even, and that we can bring about positive changes together gives me hope.

And yet I realize how few of these projects I participate in. Not because I don’t want to, but because I learn about them and think, “Oh I should look into that”, and then life happens and I remember about it too late, or there’s a scheduling conflict, or I get overwhelmed and need to take a step back from involvement. Or perhaps, I don’t hear about these at all. Maybe it’s a small, local project that I’m unaware of until it’s too late to participate. Or I hear about it after the fact somehow.

So I decided I needed to do something about this. I want to be more involved in these efforts, to bring awareness to some that may not get as much notice, and to participate in more of those that I keep saying “next time” to.  With that, I’ve started the the 50 States of Hope goal. I would like to be involved in at least one project that helps at least one person in all 50 states. Now of course, I could pick one large event for a cause that affects people in every state. And I might well participate in this simply because I think it worthy. But I’d also like to participate in those that are more local. Perhaps it’s simply a locally organized event of a larger organization. Or maybe it’s writing an anonymous letter of hope to someone struggling. Or a toy or book drive for children who are in the hospital.  It could be participating in something to help local community arts. Maybe it’s a local community garden project, or something to help local school children. What I want is to really feel my contribution is helping people, and that perhaps I’m bringing awareness to a worthy project or cause that may not have enough awareness on it.

But I of course don’t regularly frequent all 50 states to know exactly what local events and projects are going on. So that’s where you all come in. I’m looking for suggestions. What’s going on in your area? Do you have a project, perhaps one that helps your community, or one nearby, that you’re passionate about? Do you know someone, or know of someone, who could use a letter of hope. Do you know someone who runs a local project or campaign for a cause?  I’d love to learn more about it.

Now please keep in mind that I have a day job and am not independently wealthy so, while I’d truly love to one day do so, I cannot currently travel the country full time offering hope, and may need to get a little creative with some. And I’d rather it not be strictly a monetary donation, not only because I’m not independently wealthy but because I’d like to get my hands dirty a bit. To feel more actively involved, even if it’s simply collecting toys or books or games or school supplies or food or whatever it is. So please, send your suggestions my way either here, on social media, or via email at thespreadhopeproject@gmail.com.  If I am able to participate in the project you suggest, I promise to give it a shout out on social media, the blog, wherever I can, and if you’d like, to give you one too for making the suggestion (this part isn’t mandatory if you’d prefer to stay anonymous).

Thanks in advance! I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

.

Follow Me As I Walk Overnight

As I write this, I realize that title might sound like a creepy stalker invitation. To clarify, follow me on social media, as I walk the AFSP Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention this weekend.  Saturday night will mark the fourth year that I’ve walked 16-18 miles overnight to raise funds and awareness for Suicide Prevention. We begin the walk at dusk, usually around 7:30PM, and walk through the night until we finish the miles, with the course generally closing around 4:30AM.

It was an event I’d long wanted to do, given my own struggles, those of friends and loved ones, and the loss of a second-cousin to suicide about 6 years ago. When the event came to my home city of Philadelphia for the first time in 2014 (it’s held in only two cities each year), I felt it was a sign. Knowing nobody else walking, I signed up. I raised the $1000 required to walk and trained hard. (Yes, you have to train for a walk. Have you ever walked 18 miles nonstop, only sitting down to pee – or not, because the only bathrooms are port-o-potties? The loss of toenails and other foot injuries are very real threats). The night of the event, I was lucky – weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, and I connected with a group of other solo walkers who walked at my speed, which can be tricky as I like to walk fast – I’m not a night person, and the staying up that late is tougher for me than the walk.

The next year, I walked in Boston. It poured. I mean poured. Thunderstorms forecasted and 40mph winds actually caused them to shorten the route slightly, as apparently it’s ill- advised to be walking on a metal bridge over the water in lightening, and they removed that portion from the walk.  I was lucky enough to connect with one of the men I’d walked with the year before, and had a walking buddy for my second time around.  Last year in New York City, it again monsooned, but luckily only for under an hour at the beginning. While it’s not fun to begin 17+ miles in wet socks and underwear (it really, really poured), I again met a group of solo individuals who became my team for the year. Plus, my amazing fiance (the other half of Spread Hope Project), chased me around the city on the transit system and met me at every cheering station.

This year, I’m headed to Washington, D.C. We will be starting at the Lincoln Memorial, and walking past sites such as the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, U.S. Capital, National Archives, U.S. Treasury, Embassy Row, and through the heart of Georgetown. Our “Midnight Snack”, a.k.a lunch in the middle of the night, which we all know never to sit down for or you’ll never get up, is in Farragut Square Park. We finish back at the Lincoln Memorial.

Usually I finish the walk some time between 12:30AM and 2AM. It depends on how quickly I walk, how many “pit stops” I make (bathroom breaks, along with little snacks to take on the go and water/Gatorade refills), and a few other factors.  We shall see this year. I haven’t gotten to train as much as I’d like, due to the rainy spring and recent 95 degree heat, along with longer work hours. I’m crossing my fingers for no rain, though there’s a 60% chance of storms so I doubt a dry walk is likely. I’ve walked in rain before, though, and I’ll do it again if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

For those who want to follow along, I will be posting pictures on both the Spread Hope Project Instagram and my own personal Instagram, as well as tweeting.  For anyone in the DC area who may want to actually follow along and support those walking for this incredible cause, here are a list of cheering stations, along with “peak viewing times” (which kind of makes us sound like we’re safari animals, but is when they estimate the most people will be going through). If you plan to stop by a cheering station, I’d love to hear from you! And if you’d like to support the Spread Hope Project, feel free to get creative with cheering signage and/or to hashtag #spreadhopeproject in any photos you post.

And finally, if, by any chance any of my readers are also walking this Saturday, please let me know! I’d love a walking buddy if you like a quick pace, or to at least be able to connect and say hi. To all who are walking, who have donated, and who come out to support the cause, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

philly overnight steps

At the finish line in my first Overnight Walk in Philadelphia in 2014. Each luminary lit is for someone lost to suicide.

 

365 Days of Hope Starts Tomorrow

June 1st is the day, all! The day that we start our 365 Days of Hope campaign.  We are off to a good start: 107 items, places, and activities so far for us to take photos with/of in our Hope gear.  We have everything from sitting in a new coffee shop to being on top of a human pyramid, so don’t be shy about your suggestions! (Note:  it’s a family friendly project, and we would like to keep out of jail or the hospital, and keep our day job! :-). 

Why? Because we want to reach people in all places of all ages who enjoy all different types of things.  Chronic illness can feel isolating, and we want to let these people know that, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever they like to do, they are not alone, even when it feels like it. And maybe we’ll even make them smile a little.

So fire away! Have a favorite outdoor activity? A favorite historic site, landmark, or city? Maybe you want to see us do something silly, or relive our childhood? We’ll be running through sprinklers and swinging on a swing set, so feel free to add more! We don’t mind being a little goofy in order to spread a little hope to those who need it. In fact, we’re pretty much kids at heart!

We don’t have an endless supply of money, so we may need to improvise on some suggestions, but we’ll do our best to make them happen!

Can’t wait to see your ideas!

Much love and hope to you all!

 

 

 

365 Days of Hope

We’re rolling out a fun new campaign! One that we didn’t list in the May blog post, but hey, sometimes ideas just pop up out of nowhere. So here we go.

We’re gathering 365 ideas of “things” – anything, really – that we can take photos with in our Hope shirts. It can be anything from a cup of coffee to a sunset to the Eiffel Tower or even an activity (that won’t get us arrested/fired). Hey, you might even get us to see or try something new! So far, we’ve been given suggestions such as:

  • A rainbow
  • A wild animal in the wild (where we can do so safely!)
  • The beach
  • A music festival
  • A brewery
  • A famous art sculpture
  • An alpaca
  • Riding a bike

As you can see, your suggestions can be as specific or as general as you’d like. We might need to be creative at times, but we’re going to try to post one each day (some of which may have to be “later grams”, since we can’t really determine when we might see things like a rainbow or a wild animal in the wild). You are allowed to give us a specific place, but if you are not the proprietor of said place, we just need to ask their permission to tag them and prove it’s there. If we are not allowed to, we may need to generalize the suggestion (i.e. to “a coffee shop” or “a brewery”). If you are the proprietor, by all means, thank you for letting us take a photo there!

So please, fire away! There’s no bad suggestion, assuming it’s not illegal, immoral, or might injure us.  We’d love to experience new things and have new adventures along the way, so have at it! We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

It’s Been A Busy Few Weeks

So, we’ve been a little behind in our blogging and posting, we know. We’ve been occupied with a home renovation and wedding planning (eek!), plus super busy work schedules,  which leaves us exhausted at the end of the day.  Throw in some chronic illness and viola! you fall behind on blogging.  And when you’re schedule is jam packed from sunrise until bedtime, you don’t get a ton of chances to travel around the region for Spread Hope Project photos.

Still, we don’t want to lose sight of our mission and vision, and we know that the way to stay true to those is through action.  Because as busy as life has been keeping us lately, we also want to be busy spreading hope to as many people in as many places as we can. So here’s what we’re going to be working on over the course of the next few months:

  • Spread Hope merchandise – more shirts, as well as some some non-clothing items
  • Sign-making day. We’ll be gathering friends, in person and virtually, to create Spread Hope signs. The more people who participate, the more hope we can spread, and they’ll be used in some additional upcoming projects.
  • Destination Day. Let’s see how many destinations we can reach!
  • Participating in the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for suicide prevention.  This is our fourth year walking, and we’re excited to head to DC for the walk this summer.
  • Growing our future destination list! Ok, so we’re always doing this, but we’ll be doing a push for suggested destinations.
  • Mental Health Month. May is Mental Health Month, and we’ll be participating in as many special campaigns as we can!

Each of these efforts is worthy of their own post, and we’ll definitely be sharing more in the near future. For now, wanted to let you know we’re still here and still committed – just a little extra tired and running a little ragged. Thank you for sticking with us!