Throughout 2018, Alamo City Moms Blog will be spotlighting one local nonprofit each month as part of its ACMB Cares campaign. Our goal is to familiarize readers with nonprofit organizations that are making an impact in San Antonio through their connection with moms and/or children. This month, we are featuring Project Brave.
Once in a while you meet someone and feel like you’ve known them your entire life. This was true for Casey and me.
It didn’t hurt that we had so much in common: we were both mothers to two children who were about the same ages, we had lived in the same town in northern Louisiana and knew many people in common, we were both children of divorce and had both been through divorces ourselves, and we both loved to cross stitch, which we agreed was definitely an odd hobby for anyone under the age of 60.
We quickly formed an endearing friendship. We would set up play dates with our kids, celebrate birthdays together, and Casey was even present at the birth of my daughter as my anesthesiologist. I was grateful to have her with me during that time as I had some complications right after the birth, and it was comforting to have not just a highly skilled physician at my side but also a dear friend. That day she was a lifesaver in more ways than one.
And then, in a flash, she was taken away.
One Friday morning in March of 2016, Casey was shot to death by her estranged husband. It turned out she and I had something else in common: we both had been victims of domestic violence. The day of her service I sat on my back porch and with tears streaming down my cheeks, watched my kids play together in the yard. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt that I had somehow survived over seven years of domestic violence, and somehow she had not. I felt broken into a million pieces, and I knew that if I was ever going to put myself back together again I had to put something positive into the world to honor my sweet friend. As I watched my children running around, giggling and full of life, I thought about how much Casey loved kids—not just my kids, but every child she ever met. She was drawn to them, and they were equally attracted to her. I knew that if I was going to do something in her name it had to be with children, and that’s when Project Brave was born.
As parents, we’re keen to talk about healthy relationships with our kids in high school and even as young as middle school. It’s natural to equate relationships to dating, and I don’t know too many people who are encouraging that type of thing while their kids are still in elementary school. Interestingly enough, the current research on this topic suggests that our relationship skills are primarily developed between the ages of six and ten, which means that if we’re waiting until middle or high school, we’ve missed a critical window of development. And while domestic violence has infinite layers of complexity, it’s fair to assume that our relationship patterns when we’re young have the potential to define what we deem permissible—or at least forgivable—behavior in adulthood. This is where Project Brave is determined to make a difference.
The purpose of Project Brave is to arm parents, teachers, and caregivers with the tools they need to teach kids essential social and emotional skills, which are imperative in how we relate to one another. Currently, we have two programs specifically designed for this purpose: The Books of Bravery program is a collection of more than two dozen books that touch on important skill sets such as empathy, confidence, inclusion, self-awareness, and kindness. These libraries can be found in various schools, practitioners’ and therapists’ offices, and childcare centers around San Antonio, and more are being donated monthly. The books are targeted to ages 5–12 and come with conversation starters for children and caregivers to discuss.
Our second program is our speaker series, which kicked off in November 2017 with Trudy Ludwig, an award-winning author and expert on the topic of aggressors and bystanders. Our speakers visit area schools and engage directly with both children and faculty, and we also host adult presentations at local community centers, free of charge and full of valuable information. This October we are honored to have Kathryn Otoshi, the author of the well-known number/color series books, Zero (self-esteem), One (bullying, standing up), and Two (friendship, conflict-resolution). More information on this upcoming free event can be found on our website at projectbrave.net under the events tab.
Our third annual Pajama Run is being held at McAllister Park on September 30th, and registration is available online at https://runsignup.com/Race/TX/SanAntonio/PBpajamarun. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and it is a family-friendly event with a kids’ area, complete with face painters, entertainers, and a bouncy house. Kids who participate in the Fun Run will receive a cape and medal, and there’s also a 5K walk/run and a 10K run, both of which are professionally timed races. More info can be found at the run signup page.
The team at Project Brave is committed to continuing Casey’s legacy of love and compassion. We’ve been honored to see the excitement around our cause and the positivity the program brings to so many kids, and we’re equally honored to have been selected as a featured nonprofit by Alamo City Moms Blog. If you would like more information on the organization or know of a location which could benefit from a Books of Bravery library, please email us at [email protected], and together, we’ll make kindness the culture.