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My “Why JMF?”: JMF is a safe and growing place

Kate Creason, last year’s Butterfly Tea speaker, shares her “Why JMF?” through her experiences of safety and growth with the Joseph Maley Foundation. Join us for the annual Butterfly Tea this year on April 29th from 2:00-3:30 PM.

Spring is definitely here with the tulips blooming, trees budding, and the birds singing their songs. What a perfect time of year to have the JMF Butterfly Tea that celebrates so much about hope and growth. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak at the JMF Butterfly Tea. What an amazing way it was to connect with others who are interested in creating safe places for children and adults to come together and celebrate each other.

My relationship with JMF has been such a wonderful one as I have had a chance to work with them both professionally and personally. I am a child/family therapist who works with families, children, and individuals who are struggling with a variety of issues. Some have suffered trauma. Some have mental health or behavioral needs. And some are families struggling to connect and work together. All of them at times feel alone. Those that are struggling—whether you can see it outwardly or not—often feel that others do not care or don’t want to see their pain, or that they may be the only ones going through something. My first task as a counselor is to create a safe place for them to be able to be themselves—all of themselves. After that happens–then comes the beauty in listening. There is a beautiful growth that is experienced when others are able to feel safe to share their honesty and truth—where I can bear witness to what it is like to walk in their shoes.

JMF provided that safe place for my own family through their adaptive athletics program. One of my children struggles with a disability that sometimes can be the “first thing” people see about him, but he is much more than any diagnosis. Doing anything sport related, he had always been different—it had always been about what he could not do. But when he joined JMFitness, it was about what he could do and about having fun. Each week, he swam with his buddy and gained confidence in the water. He had fun, and most of all, he was free to be himself. At the end of the season, he was given a frame to decorate for his buddy. It had stickers that were in the shapes of letters. He chose to spell out, “I love you.” As his mom, this said it all—here he was safe. Here he was accepted. He was able to be his authentic self without fear of judgment or ridicule. He had found a safe place.

But JMF is more than a safe place, it is also a growing place that teaches all of us. By participating in the programs, my kids have learned more about other kids that are different than themselves. I am also a mom to two kids without any diagnoses. And JMF is just as important for them as for my child with a diagnosis. Maybe more so in some ways. Because JMF teaches them to look at people not at what they can’t do, but what they can do. And this is a gift. It teaches them empathy and acceptance of others.

And that is really what this is all about. We all have struggles: some of them you can see, others we hold within. And we all want places to be us—to be heard, to be celebrated. JMF creates this safety and then goes one step further to teach young people how to create their own safe places and communities.

As you enjoy your spring and celebrate the new growth happening around you, consider joining JMF for their Butterfly Tea. I promise there will be seeds of growth that will be happening there!

Post written by: Kate Creason, Butterfly Tea Speaker 2016