Hi all! I want to give a big thank you to Emily Dayton for agreeing to do an interview with me. Emily began a suicide prevention movement, though they are not only a suicide prevention group, with her parents known as You Can NOT Be Replaced. At first, they ordered just 500 wristbands, but at their one year mark, they had over 14,000 wristbands circulating across the country. They run a very inspirational movement, speak at school assemblies, and do so much more. Talk about inspirational! Although September is suicide prevention month, I think that suicide prevention and Emily’s movement are important things to promote at any time of the year because you truly cannot be replaced. Please check out my interview with Emily below:
1. Can you tell me a little bit about the movement that you and your parents started and why?
The movement that my parents and I started is called You Can NOT Be Replaced. It focuses on the growth and strength of youth and families by promoting the irreplaceable value of each individual. We started YCNBR after the seventh suicide that had happened in our community. Yes, YCNBR started as a response to the suicides, but we are not only a suicide prevention group. We like to think of ourselves as ‘up-stream’ prevention through understanding your worth and value as a person to make good choices. Our goal is to be able to reach someone before they take the path that leads to crisis. If we can affect at least one person where ever we go, whether its an event or a school assembly that’s all we need and that’s why we were supposed to go.
2. How did you come up with the name You Can NOT Be Replaced?
We came up with name You Can NOT Be Replaced, the weekend after the seventh suicide. My parents and I were sitting at the dining room table talking about tragedy like we always did with each of the ones before. I shared with them that I had this feeling like I was supposed to do something about it, but not knowing what. Each person is so unique, their personality, talents, gifts, and when they’re gone, its forever. So I said out loud to them “Don’t they realize they can’t be replaced?” It automatically struck me. ‘Why didn’t the boys who did commit suicide not know that?’ We decided to buy 500 wristbands to pass out to local kids. I have my graphic design certificate from high school, so I got busy on an instruction card because I knew I wanted the wristbands to be passed. For weeks following I was bouncing off ideas from me to my parents and vice versa. We came up with, little did we know, our non-profit You Can NOT Be Replaced. Donations started coming in right away and we put up the website, Facebook, and twitter sites. Its grown from there. At one year we had 14,000 across the country.
3. Can you tell me a little bit about how starting this movement has changed you?
This organization has changed me in every way. Going through twelve suicides (the cluster was bigger than the students at my school) in the past five years and having so many questions that couldn’t possibly be answered was extremely frustrating for me. But I took those experiences , took a step back and thought about what I was doing in my life. My decisions would not only affect me but the people around me, in the present but also in the future, so my choices and who I spent time with was important. This organization has changed my thought process about those actions and has made me want to try and make a difference each day, whether big or small.
4. What have you learned from this inspirational project you began?
I don’t know where to begin! I think I can speak for both my parents and I that we have learned an incredible amount of information and are continuing to learn new things every day. The information that my mom and I have found on just the developing brain and the effects of substance use, exercise and food alone is fascinating. We are always striving to learn more. But I have also learned that five simple words (You Can NOT Be Replaced) can be extremely powerful, I would have never thought that initially. We get emails expressing how grateful people are that someone passed them a wristband and told them that they are special in one way or another. Some people have stopped cutting, some kids have turned bullying behavior around, it goes on and on. Starting this organization, I guess I never realized so many people would take that saying straight to their hearts. It really makes an impact. The feedback from people, it makes me strive and work harder to keep pursuing and spreading the message.
5. What would you tell someone who says that they want to start something inspiring, but are not sure that one person or just a few people can make a difference?
I never planned to start an organization. That weekend my parents and I thought we were doing something for the community. We were ordering only a certain amount of wristbands, a onetime thing. When we kept getting donations and it just started growing very quickly, we knew we had an opportunity to make a difference. It still sometimes doesn’t feel real to me. But whenever I go to an event, pass a wristband, or just talk about it, I’m reminded that I love what I’m doing and I’m so grateful to be able to do it. If someone has a passion for wanting to make a difference or to do something inspiring I highly encourage them to go for it. It doesn’t have to be huge. Small things matter and they add up to make big impacts. They should strive for what they believe in, I know its so cliché to say ‘Whatever you put your mind to you can do,’ but it’s true. If you have something that you want to pursue, get the right people on board and do it!
6. How can people get involved in your movement?
People can get involved in so many ways in YCNBR; we’re always looking for people to come and get involved to spread the word. Everyone who we have come in contact with has made a difference and affected us in a different way. The easiest way is to get wristbands and start passing. Some people wear two, some people keep them by the door to grab on the way out, we’ve even had people load up their arms and go to events or runs and pass a whole bunch. You can have fundraisers for us, that helps us give wristbands to teens for free or go to a school for an assembly. You can use our character cards in groups. So if you’re a college student, you can do them with friends or go to high schools and offer to have a group after schools. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook or Instagram and share the quotes we put up. If you’re local, you can volunteer with different events, tagging wristbands. We have packets with T-shirts, wristbands, character cards, and our information that we give to pass out. We’ll come speak at your event or school and get you going; they can email for information about that. Once you are finished passing your wristbands and spreading the word you come back to us and get more. When in doubt pass it! Because the wristbands are replaceable, but the person is not. Of course send us your wristband stories!
7. Where do you hope to see your movement in five years?
In five years I’ll be out of school and hopefully working with my parents on You Can NOT Be Replaced with different events and school assemblies, talking to schools and groups. I would love to see YCNBR expand and for us to travel around to spread the word and try to reach out to as many people as we can.
8. Where else can people go for help if they are feeling depressed or want someone to talk to?
If you are feeling depressed or want to talk to someone we have different resources on our website www.youcannotbereplaced.com , where you can locate different sources from blogs, suicide prevention websites, and other non-profit organizations, where you can find more information. Don’t keep it in! My dad tells a story about a festering wound that was covered up to get better. Don’t cover it up! Let the light and the air hit that wound and ask someone who knows your heart to help you find the help you need. There’s always hope.
9. Is there anything you would like to add?
I would just like to add that you never know how far a simple act of kindness will go for someone. So keep trying to do them because you never know who you will affect that day. That’s why we chose our quote ‘No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted’. Aesop
Hi all! I want to give a big thank you to Heather Von St. James for agreeing to do an interview for Project Light to Life. Heather is a wife, mother, and a mesothelioma survivor. When her daughter was 3 1/2 months old, she was diagnosed with this cancer, which is both rare and deadly, and given 15 months to live. Seven years have passed and today, on Mesothelioma Awareness Day, she is trying to raise awareness of this disease. Heather blogs for the Huffington Post, is a mesothelioma research funding advocate, and speaker for both the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
Check out my interview with this very inspiring woman below, along with her website:
1). You have been through so much, and yet, you are still doing so many successful things. You are a mesothelioma survivor and research funding advocate, conference speaker for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organaztion and Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a writer for The Huffington Post, as well as a mom. What would you say to someone who says that one person cannot make a difference?
One person can start a movement. One voice can make a lot of noise and spread their message farther than you think. Just try it, and before long, one person turns into 100, then 1000, the possibilities are endless. I started out just wanting to share my story and simply spread hope. I now understand what one person can do, and when others help that one person amplify their message, there is no telling what can happen.
2). Even after all of your accomplishments, what is one thing you would like to accomplish that you have not yet done?
There is so much more. Until people stop saying meso what?? Or giving blank looks when I tell them of my diagnosis, or the comment about the TV commercials stop – my work is far from done. Oh, and I would LOVE to be on The Ellen Degeneres show 🙂 Hey, a girl can dream can’t she??
3). Is there anyone who inspires you and why?
My mom. There are many people who inspire me, but my mom always comes to my mind first. She and my dad were married so young. She started working overnight shifts at work, and before long, worked her way up into management. She never compromised her integrity or beliefs to get to where she is and always sticks to her guns on what she knows is right, She is a spiritual powerhouse and has more get up and go than most women her age. She is amazing. I love my mom.
4). As you were going through the many obstacles that come with being diagnosed with a deadly disease, was there anyone or anything you looked to for hope and why?
As silly as this may sound to some people, I looked to my little girl. I would look at her playing, and know no matter what I would be around to raise her. When I was diagnosed, there was no one I knew that survived long term, but after getting involved with the Mesothelioma Foundation, I met a couple of women, Marlyn Landin, who is a 13 year survivor, and Bonnie Anderson, an 11 year survivor. It was after I finished all of my treatments, but it helped me to see that there are survivors and I would be one of them.
4). What would you like people to know about mesothelioma?
It is not about the commercials on TV, or about the lawsuits, or the lawyers. It is about very real people, innocent people who were just doing their job, hugging their dad, or just doing home improvement. It’s the people who suffer needlessly because this was 100% preventable. Asbestos exposure is the culprit, and as of right now, is not banned in the US. This needs to change.
5). Tell me a little bit about your campaign. How can people help?
Until people are aware of what mesothelioma is, or how you get it, nothing will change. My hope is in the next couple of years, funding will improve to help find a cure. I am asking people to donate their social media status on September 26, “In Honor of #MesoAwarenessDay, I’m giving my voice to the victims”. I hope it starts a conversation. The more people who are aware of the disease, the more potential lives that could be saved. People can go to my web page and read more about mesothelioma, and there are links there to The Meso Foundation and ADAO as well.
6). Is there anything that you would like to add?
My deepest gratitude goes out to you, and your willingness to help!! Mesothelioma needs more awareness, and a piece such as this, helps spread the word. We WILL see change!! Thank you!
Hi all! I want to give a big thank you to author Keith Maginn for agreeing to do an email interview with me. Keith has self-published two inspiring books. His first book is an inspirational self-help memoir called Turning This Thing Around. I interviewed him about his second book, Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward, which is about a pay it forward movement he began with a friend across part of the United States – how inspiring! In addition to publishing these books, Keith was a reader of the month for Project Light to Life 🙂 You can check out his blog here and his books here:
Below is the interview:
1. In your book Goodwill Tour: Paying it Forward, you and your friend Emily travel across several southeastern states, picking strangers to give your money to, the only rule being that they must pay the money forward. Can you tell me what inspired the two of you to take on such a complex journey in the first place?
The idea for the trip actually started out as a joke. Emily and I met through my memoir, Turning This Thing Around. A friendship developed over time and we started half-seriously daydreaming about going on the road to sell my books. The two of us brainstormed how we could combine having an adventure with doing something philanthropic. Emily had read Bill Clinton’s book Giving and was well aware of the “Pay-it-Forward” cause. Ultimately, she came up with the idea to go out on the road, meet deserving strangers and give them money that they had to give to someone else. Meanwhile, I would be taking notes along the way that I would turn into a book.
2. How did you decide whom to give the money to? Can you tell me a little bit about some of these people and their reactions?
The whole trip came about very quickly and we didn’t have time to plan much of anything. Emily and I decided we would just take a leap of faith and trust our instincts. We wanted to put ourselves into positions to meet deserving people. In some cases we were able to work alongside volunteers, at a soup kitchen for example, and other times meeting our donation recipients was more serendipitous. Believe it or not, giving money to strangers was harder than we expected!
The people that we chose ranged from a nun to a mother of three young children to a monk. As you can imagine, all were quite surprised when complete strangers handed them cash. What struck me the most about these people is that they kept thanking us for what we were doing, while they were the ones really making a difference. What I mean is that Emily and I were travelling around for a few weeks, while the people we met worked or volunteered to help others on a daily basis for little or no credit.
3. Do you know how some of them paid it forward?
Knowing in advance that I would be writing a book about the experience, Emily and I did everything we could to track where the money ended up. The people that we chose were wonderful and were very happy to report back who they chose and why. We do know the money was used in a variety of ways: One donation went to helping a young girl get needed medication, another to buy groceries for an elderly woman and another to two fellow travelers that happened to be on their own road trip to do volunteer work.
One of my regrets, though, was that we were not able to form relationships with some of the beneficiaries. For whatever reason, they did not want to keep in touch. That was a gamble that we took, but overall the interactions worked out well.
4. How did you decide what part of the United States to travel through? Had you ever been to these places before, and, either way, what did you learn through this trip?
Emily and I only had a 15-day window for our trip, so the route had to be within driving distance of Cincinnati, our hometown. We knew the Southeastern U.S. route would put us in the Deep South in the middle of a very hot summer, but that course would allow us to visit more places that we had never been previously. Just a few days before we were going to leave, Emily and I decided to go to Memphis, Tennessee – New Orleans, Louisiana – Savannah, Georgia – Charleston, South Carolina – Asheville, North Carolina…and many towns in between.
5. What were some of your favorite moments from this trip?
Stepping off of the trolley in our first stop (Memphis, Tennesse) was when it first hit me: we were actually going through with this crazy idea! Emily and I had the next several days to do whatever we wanted. No deadlines, no 9-to-5, just a goal to have some fun and to try to touch some lives.
Giving away the first donation to a very special young woman in Memphis made us realize that things might work out after all. She was genuinely grateful and all three of us were in tears. (The first interaction also gave us a false sense of how smooth the trip and the giving would be, as things were not that easy the rest of the trip!)
I also greatly enjoyed spending time in New Orleans. There was an energy in that city that I have never felt before. Everyone just wanted us to have a good time.
6. What would you tell people who want to start a movement, or do something inspiring, but are afraid it might be impossible?
I would offer a quote from John F. Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
It is cliché, but my advice would be that you only live once. You don’t want to have regrets the rest of your life because you didn’t go after something you were passionate about. When my aunt found out that Emily and I were going on this journey, she said “One of my regrets is that I didn’t do once-in-a-lifetime things when I was young and unencumbered.” You will never know unless you step out of your comfort zone and follow what your heart is telling you to do. If you go forward, you might be surprised how things just seem to work in your favor.
7. What is the #1 item you would like to cross off your bucket list?
“The Goodwill Tour” was just a tease for what I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember: to take an RV or Airstream trailer around the United States for a few months. No plans, just driving from one interesting place to the next…the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Yellowstone, Austin, New York City…
8. Is there anything you would like to add?
Emily and I easily could have backed out of this trip, could have put it off for “another time”…a time that would never come. I am very glad that we took a chance. No one can ever take that away from us. I hope Goodwill Tour: Paying it Forward inspires others to take their dream trip and/or to make a difference in the lives of others.
I want to give a big thank you to Summer for agreeing to do an email interview with me and for being my first interviewee on this blog.
Although Summer is only fourteen, she already has 78,000+ followers on Instagram. I began following her account (oh_snap_its_summer) about six months ago and am still amazed by how artsy, deep, and inspirational her photos are. She even has her own Facebook page, where you can view more of her talent and beautiful photos.
If you’re interested in learning more about her, she also has an Ask.fm account, where she answers questions that are asked anonymously. I love how mature some of her answers are and how well she handles answering certain questions.
Not only does she have the coolest name ever, but she’s from North Florida; I guess I’ve become a bit of a fan girl over the past couple months! I think one of the main things we can learn from Summer is that we are never too young, or too old, to try new things, as she mentions in her interview. She also shows us how nice having a positive attitude and great sense of humor are!
Here is our interview:
1. What are some of your favorite ways to help other people? To inspire them? How come?
My favorite way to help people is to be there for them. It’s what I find so awesome, when someone’s there for me, and I always want to be that person for other people.
My favorite way to inspire people is through my photos. I try to unlock certain emotions with each of my images so that people can have a different relationship with each one!
2. What would you tell someone who wants to pursue his or her dreams, but says he or she is afraid of being too young right now? Why?
You’re never too young. You may not be able to do everything you want to because of your age but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. ALWAYS try.
3. What are some things that bring you happiness in life?
4. If you could cross one location off your bucket list (anywhere in the world) to take your idea of the perfect photo in that location, where would it be and why?
A sunflower field! I don’t know if you can notice but fields are my most favorite things in this world, especially flower fields, and sunflowers are my favorite.
5. If you could cross one thing off the top of your bucket list, what would it be and why?
Swim in Jell-O; it’s a lifelong dream.
6. Anything you would like to add?
Just don’t let anyone stop you from doing anything. Ever.
So what do you guys think? If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow Summer on Instagram and recommend her account to friends as well! Do you know of any other inspirational young people like Summer? I’d love to hear from you!