Feeding the Fire, Fueling a Legacy

WestonEditedBV-1Yesterday when I went for a walk after work, I never expected to get upset when passing a bakery.

Taking advantage of the short-lived sunny weather, I took the long way to my doctor’s appointment taking in the sights of Rittenhouse Square. I’ve worked in the Rittenhouse Square area for the past 2 ½ years, but my memories of the area go back farther. It’s the neighborhood where I spent many of brunches and dinners with the Keeton family. I can’t pass the park without remembering the evening where Julie and I ran from rats while Easton laughed at us. Or when I took six of the kids plus my own niece trick-or-treating alone, which somehow involved a cab ride.

The bakery was one of the rare times I was able to see Weston out of the hospital or Gift of Life Family House. I had just moved down to my first apartment in Fishtown in early 2013, and went over to meet Julie, Easton and Weston for breakfast. On the way back, Weston asked to ride on my back as we went to the Metropolitan Bakery to get cherry chocolate bread. He was so light on my back I could barely feel he was there, but his laughter and navigation could be heard a mile away.

So during my walk yesterday I found myself outside of the bakery, realizing it’s been four years since that day. And ever since the calendar flipped to March, the 23rd sticks out like an eyesore reminding me Weston gained his wings 3 years ago. Tears started to well up in my eyes as I quickly fumbled through my purse for sunglasses. The ache of time passed just hit me in that moment, and the disbelief that it has been 3 years since March 23rd became the day I want to punch in the face the most out of any other day of the year. And with the countless of lives Weston has touched, I know there are others who will be dealing with heartache this month.

Despite feeling the moments of grief and sadness attached to this month, I am also choosing to celebrate Weston’s legacy honoring his biggest heroes- firefighters.While there are many others who would also like to punch March 23rd in the face, they will be delivering baked goods, meals, supplies and love to firehouse & service workers across the country. All as part of the 3rd annual ‘Feed the Fire’ day of service in honor Weston Keeton’s 3rd year angel-versary.

10575303_10205185592312279_5157878559498156333_oFeed the Fire is a call to action for people from across the country to adopt their local fire house or a group that provides service. Weston adored firefighters & dreamed of being one when he grew up. During his lifetime, firefighters from across the country took time to send him letters, photos, gifts & even to make special visits. Julie & Adam Keeton made the decision to honor Weston’s heroes, and asked that all of those who had been touched by their son’s story to do the same.

Since 2015, hundreds firehouses were adopted nationwide with local heroes being treated to potluck dinners, donated supplies, and care packages full of treats (including Weston’s favorite, Hot Cheetos). Even more firehouses & heroes will be honored tomorrow, which is an incredible achievement for the 3rd year of Feed the Fire. While March 23rd will still be a difficult day for so many that miss that sweet little boy, there is comfort knowing that his legacy continues to bring the best out in people. Without a doubt Weston changed the course of my life for the better. I often say the little boy with the broken heart taught me how to love again.  Forever, I will be grateful for the Miracle on 34th Street.

Interested in getting involved in the 2017 Feed the Fire celebration? Visit the Feed the Fire Facebook page or http://www.westonswarriors.com/feed-the-fire.html 

 

Roller Derby: Much More Than Skating

IMG_6672

 

Last weekend, a spectacular gathering of sportsmanship, community, and innovation came together for a weekend-long event in the most unsuspecting place. At a sports center tucked away in Bucks County, Feasterville to be exact, that’s 45 minute drive from the heart of Philadelphia, the roller derby community gathered for the 10th annual East Coast Roller Derby Extravaganza (ECDX) produced by Philly Roller Girls and the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).  

In just over a 48 hour span, 44 roller derby bouts were played across three different rinks providing non-stop game viewing. Athletes and their fan base took planes, trains and automobiles to get to the event- literally. The variety of accents and dialects that could be heard during the weekend were plentiful-and included travelers who journeyed from Canada, England, Australia and beyond.  

For many, the Roller Derby strikes thoughts of the Ellen Page, Whip It, film. But for the hundreds of attendees that participated at ECDX, in addition to the thousands who listened to the bouts from home via online streaming, roller derby is a way of life.

As a disclaimer, I am not a roller derby player. Nor do I lack any coordination that would allow me to function on wheels.The sport appeared on my radar back in 2012, when my co-worker, Erica, began talking about her involvement with the sport.

IMG_8429Over time Erica (known as Double H in the derby world), became one of my best friends, and I began to hear all about this female-dominated sport that has been continuously growing around the globe. Through it, she shared about the amazing friendships created through the sport, and her own derby-themed love story.  My 1st time watching roller derby was 2013, when she asked me to attend a bout she was announcing so that I could keep an eye oh her young son. While babysitting, I took in everything that was going around me. The derby names everyone goes by(some of them still make me blush), passionate fans waving handmade signs while screaming their hearts out, and women who willingly lace up skates to participate in a game where it is a strong possibility to end up with a bodily injury. Still even knowing that the impact looks worse than it actually is, I wince and get concerned when I watch Erica get knocked around on skates. Being a spectator of roller derby is not for the faint of heart.

Since that initial experience, I have evolved from derby babysitter to multimedia volunteer for ECDX. 2016 marked my 4th time at the event, making it  my most engaged involvement. Throughout the weekend, I worked with the legion of ECDX volunteers who put their blood, sweat, tears and talents into the annual event.

Most, if not all, people who made ECDX possible sacrificed hours of their personal lives to bring the event to life- encompassing multi-faceted roles including photographers, announcers, referees, merchandisers, broadcasters, recreational planners, and maintenance. To say that their dedication to making the experience a memorable one is a labor of love is an understatement.

Throughout the weekend, I was able to work alongside another creative mind, an event volunteer and skater named Taco Cat, to capture video and photography. Each day, we worked on producing and posting short 30-90 second video clips for fans following along on Facebook. Additionally, we worked on producing Facebook Live reports throughout the weekend, all made possible by using an iRig microphone and my iPhone 6s Plus.  You can check out some of my favorite shots and video clips below, and also by liking the ECDX Facebook page.

 

Continue reading