Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Neuhoff Audia: Stumbling upon Broadmoor preschool picnic is enlightning experience

The request from News-Herald Editor Tricia Ambrose was simple, take the senior shadows out in the community and shoot video.
Kyle Langdon of Mentor and Katie Lyden of Riverside, who are both graduating in a few days, joined me on an adventure all three of us were not expecting.
Our first stop was Veterans’ Park in downtown Painesville.
Our mission was to find people who would be willing to shoot a short video with us. Our question was simple, ‘What if your favorite festival?’”
Some people we approached were on their lunch breaks and simply didn’t have time to spare. One man told us, ‘No comment,’ which I thought was comical because the topic was so light-hearted. A handful were kind enough to work with us.
When we had enough videos, we headed over to Eleanor B. Garfield Park in Mentor to get more. Our goal was the same, find people and ask them to describe their favorite festival.
When we arrived at the park, our focus shifted from shooting videos to meeting and interviewing several people who were at the park attending the annual Broadmoor School preschool picnic.
Without realizing it, we had stepped into a great story. It was a perfect way for Langdon and Lyden to experience how a story unfolds from start to finish.
The first person we saw was my former colleague Bill Tilton. His 5-year-old daughter Lexi attends Broadmoor. He was kind enough to introduce us to the people from Broadmoor who were in charge of the picnic and Chardon High School health and physical education teacher Tim Armelli who had over 30 students from the school’s Actively Caring For People program there.
Broadmoor has been holding the picnic for xx years. According to Early Childhood Supervisor Linda DeRosa, it’s an event the students and parents look forward to every year. DeRosa spoke passionately when asked about the 72 students at the picnic, half of which are special needs students while the other half are typically developing.
In my new role as Community Engagement Editor, these are the types of stories I enjoy most. The ones that touch your heart and make you think twice. Stories that motivate, inspire and make you feel grateful for all you have.
After talking to preschool teacher Stephanie Ratino and DeRosa, I spoke to Joan Blackburn, a social worker at Chardon, Chardon senior Sara Jurgenc, a member of AC4P, and Armelli.
For the second year in a row, Chardon bused a group of students to the picnic to help entertain the preschoolers. Their assistance with the students enabled the parents to take a short break. Amber Meakin, who has two sons at Broadmoor, was one of the many parents who enjoyed the extra help which allowed her to talk to other parents about their experiences with special needs children.
“It’s just a very relaxing day,” she told me. “I know my two boys are super active and without the Chardon students here, there would not be any relaxing for me at all.”
When I talked to Blackburn, Jurgenc and Armelli, they spoke from the heart when they explained what it meant to help Meakin and other parents and students at the picnic. It was positive and enlightening — everything the deadly shooting at Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012 was not.
I was so impressed this group of administrators and students from Chardon were able to take something so negative and turn it into something so positive. I wondered where they got the strength to do that? I also wondered how it helped them with their healing process?
“It takes courage to step outside and do something different,” Blackburn said. “When you do something you normally wouldn’t do, it helps you develop skills you may have known you had.”
On May 20, I did something I normally don’t do.
I took two shadows out to shoot simple videos.
We returned to the paper with not only videos, but a meaningful story worth sharing.
It was an adventure Langdon, Lyden and myself were not expecting, but one we were grateful to find.

- Theresa Neuhoff Audia



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