On Saturday, May 5th we hosted our second annual Brave Event. The purpose of this event is to remind girls who attend that they are valuable and encourage them to dream big dreams for their futures. We recognize that some teen girls are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and homelessness, but especially those in the foster care system. 225 people (including teens, volunteers and parents) were present for the event on the Seattle Pacific University Campus. Over 80% of the 12-18 year old girls who attended are connected to the foster care system. They were reminded that their past does not have to determine their future.
Attendees entered a beautifully decorated room full of fun and confidence-boosting activities. Girls participated in a resource fair and received a resource booklet with over 30 free and low cost resources including college prep, extracurricular activities, summer camps, counseling services, etc. There was an art table where girls made a canvas collage of their future dreams-this was one of the most popular stations. There was also a jewelry making station where girls could metal stamp words affirmation on a bracelet. Additionally, a volunteer group called the Beyond Project offered their skills, doing attendees makeup, hair and nails and girls were able to take silly pictures in a photo booth area or formal portraits with a professional photographer, and take part in a collaborative “What Makes Me Brave?” writing wall.
After free time the group walked over to the to the First Free Methodist Church for a delicious pizza dinner and raffled-off prizes given by generous donors. Along the way volunteers lined the walkway with encouraging quotes and generally encouraged all girls who passed by.
The event concluded with a closing talk from Lisa Barnes, a captain in the Salvation Army. Lisa told her story of living in 35 foster homes and reminded the girls that they can persevere and accomplish anything they put their mind to. She had the girls write down things in their story that they felt stood in the way of their dreams, and then rip them up. Holding this “confetti” in their hands they walked to leaders stationed around the room, who sprinkled glitter to cover the pile in their hands and spoke an encouraging word over them. Lisa finished off with a countdown and the girls threw their confetti into the air, as a way of releasing whatever was holding them back, and shouted in unison “I choose to be Brave!”
One girl told about how she had felt sad and embarrassed when writing out her story, but she pointed out that as the leaders sprinkled glittered confetti into her hands, she could no longer see her torn up list of pain and hurt. She said it was like being told that what hurt her in the past didn’t have to be with her forever. When she said, “I choose to be brave” and threw her confetti in the air with everyone else, she said it felt like she was finally letting go and moving forward on a new path. We look forward to next year!
- Mandy Neill & Gabrielle Ulrich