Photo: Joshua Huston
“By the time Jackie Moffitt was 16, he had transferred schools four times and was longing for a community where he could be accepted as his authentic self — an autistic person. “Autistic people are very dehumanized in our society,” says Moffitt. “They are perceived as being incapable of emotions. People are surprised that people with autism can understand humor or love. They assume that having autism means a lack of desire to connect with other human beings.”
Seeking this connection, Moffitt discovered Theater of Possibility (TOP), a theater arts program based in Seattle and Bellevue serving kids who are “quirky, spirited, or shy or who may have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, or other learning or ability differences,” as the demographic is described on the TOP website.
Through theater games, improvisation, and role-playing led by TOP Director Lauren Goldman Marshall, Moffitt learned to embrace many of his personal attributes like extreme extroversion and abstract thinking that he’d previously felt pressure to repress.
“A lot of times for kids with disabilities their whole life is about people telling them what they’re deficient in,” says Marshall, who co-founded TOP in the years after her own daughter was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. “With TOP, they are here first and foremost to have fun and create theater together. I’m definitely highlighting relationship skills, but it’s brought in more through the back door. It’s about making kids feel successful.”
Now 21, Moffitt works as a teacher’s assistant at TOP, supporting the next generation of autistic children as they learn and grow while they also reach a level of self-acceptance.
“It’s not just about autistic people needing to learn neurotypical social skills so they can pass in a world that is majority non-autistic people,” says Moffitt. “I think that neurotypical people should also learn how to empathize with autistic people’s perspective and communicate with them on their own terms.”
Photos: Andrea Sassenrath
Popsicle Place, located primarily at the Mary’s Place Guest Rooms in South Lake Union and at a Mary’s Place house in Shoreline, gives homeless families with chronically sick kids a place to rest and recuperate. Families get private rooms, or the use of single-family houses that are loaned to the organization. The cost to run Popsicle Place varies by location and need of the families. The organization has received a couple of grants for the program, but primarily the funding comes from the general Mary’s Place budget.
Those who use Popsicle Place services include families with children battling cancer and mothers with babies born premature. The program is currently hosting about nine families but has the capacity to shelter more.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MARY’S PLACE HERE
“Amber Wise never imagined that her 5-year-old son Josiah would one day be diagnosed with leukemia.
‘He was complaining that his legs hurt,’ Wise said. ‘It kept getting worse, and so we took him to the local hospital in Spokane, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.’
Finally, after running several blood tests, Wise received a call informing her that her son had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
‘When we found out he had cancer, I felt like I hit the bottom of the barrel,’ Wise said.
At the time, Wise and her family were homeless, struggling to secure stable housing in Moses Lake, a city on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. With the help of a relative, she relocated with her wife and son to Seattle where Josiah could receive the best possible care at Seattle Children’s Hospital.”
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Photo: Jerry Davis
“For the young people at The Mockingbird Society who have experienced homelessness and foster care, advocating for the youth of the next generation is imperative.
‘Even as I’m going through this journey of being homeless, I’m teaching, I’m inviting people in and changing people’s lives,’ said Okesha Brandon, a youth advocate. ‘Everyone kind of learns your strengths and people notice, and it builds your confidence. That in itself is a contribution to society.’
Named after the great American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the organization draws inspiration from the book’s narrative.
“The power and promise of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in reminding each of us of the untapped potential our most vulnerable citizens hold,” states the organization’s website.
In the seventeen years since its founding, The Mockingbird Society has had a hand in 25 new laws and reform policies to better the lives of young people in Washington state. Mockingbird’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to be their own best advocates. The result? Changes in the policies and perceptions that stand in the way of every child having a safe, stable home and a healthy family.
Mockingbird’s legislative agenda for 2017 is ambitious, but already making an impact.”
“On this Purim weekend (March 10-12) Jewish families all over the Seattle area will dress up in costumes, make traditional treats, read from the Megillah (the story of Esther) and watch a funny and interactive shpiel (play) that tells the holiday’s origin story. The lively events are open to anyone and provide a fun opportunity for kids to celebrate and learn about Jewish history and culture.
Although there are many variations on the Purim story, the basics are as follows: Esther was a Jewish woman in ancient Persia raised by her Uncle Mordecai. The villain of the story is Haman, an adviser to King Ahasuerus who has a wicked plan to kill all of the Jews. Esther conceals her Jewish identity and is chosen by the King to be his new Queen. With Mordecai’s encouragement, Esther bravely reveals to the King that she is Jewish and asks him to save her people from Haman’s evil plot. The King respects Esther’s wishes and the Jews are saved.”
“While Rudolph guides the sleigh and Santa slides down the chimney in other households, an unusual visitor makes mischief at the Finks’ house.
But that wasn’t always so.
In the past, Marian and her wife, Shane, along with their daughter, Asa, traveled to the East Coast to celebrate Christmas with extended family. Because of work obligations, they were flying into New Jersey on Christmas Eve just in time for a seven-course dinner.
“It’s a massive feast that goes on till midnight,” says Marian. “The menu changes, but there’s always lobster, clams, shrimp and lasagna.”
Two years ago, the couple had a second daughter, Maeve. Shortly after, they decided to opt out of the hectic holiday travel that year and celebrate at home in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. Without all the magic and hullabaloo of the caravan back East, the Finks wanted to create a special tradition just for their family of four to share at home.
Shane had an idea. Growing up, she’d always had a special relationship with stuffed animals and — for better or worse — continued to amass a substantial collection of them into adulthood.”
The Thurman Family. Photo: Joshua Huston
“Joy Thurman might just be the busiest woman in Seattle this holiday season.
Joy is a fourth-year medical student at University of Washington, a mother of a 3½-year-old daughter and expecting a new baby any second (if she or he hasn’t already arrived). When she’s not hitting the books or working at Harborview, she volunteers at the White Center food bank with her father, her husband, and daughter Andersyn.
“I always get the most out of the work I don’t get paid for,” says Joy. When Andersyn was old enough to stand and hold things on her own, she joined her mom at the food bank, standing up on milk crates to give out cans.
“She loves going to the food bank, and everyone always really enjoys having her there,” says Joy. The family volunteers year-round, including the holiday season.
Born and raised in South Seattle, she met her husband, Nic, a neonatal intensive-care unit nurse, while attending Western Washington University in Bellingham. The couple celebrates Christmas in the culinary traditions of their blended family. Thurman is half African American, half Filipino, and her husband is Vietnamese American.”