This past Mother’s Day weekend we were granted the pleasure of hosting Send Silence Packing at Fairfax Corner in Fairfax County, Virginia. This display was made possible by The Josh Anderson Foundation and allowed us to connect directly with younger audiences and their parents.
Unlike our other city displays hosted in the center of a bustling metropolis, we set up shop in the heart of a very busy shopping center called the Grand Plaza. This open pavilion had a feature called an interactive fountain, which replicated what many of us would call “a good run in the sprinkler” on a much larger scale. This mini water park, which usually serves as a focal point in the Grand Plaza, brought a steady flow of parents and children of all ages through the display. One of the many things I loved about this display location is that it gave parents the opportunity to start the conversation with their children, regardless of their age. I recall a story of a family walking through, and the mother periodically checking in with her young son with a simple – “Let me know if you have any questions.”
The overall reaction of the community was also highly receptive, given the holiday weekend. Here we were, using public space in the middle of a very busy shopping center on probably one of the busiest days of the year for consumers and people were taking the time out of their day to interact with the display and learn more about what they can do to play a part in prevention. Being in this location also gave us the chance to interact with a number of high school students, graduating seniors specifically, who were preparing to make their way to college in the fall. Many of these young people, as well as other local college students, were so inspired by the display that they immediately wanted to learn more about how to be involved with the chapters on their campus.
I want to be sure to share this memory and proof that anyone anywhere can be impacted and motivated to take action, whatever it may look like:
During the morning set-up of the display, a man stopped one of the volunteers and asked a question we almost always hear: “What are all of these backpacks for?” After a brief explanation, he mentioned that he worked at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop not far from the plaza. He said he appreciated what we were doing and was going to let his manager know to stop by and check out the program. A few hours later, the manager arrived with a stack of “free kiddie cone” vouchers and said: “I heard what you all are doing and think it’s fantastic! We wanted to find some way to contribute so for anyone that donates $5 to your cause, give them a voucher and tell them to stop by.”
Lastly, I want to give a huge THANK YOU to the Anderson family and to The Josh Anderson Foundation. Josh’s story is one of the many stories included in our program, and for the day, his story spoke directly to a number of young people. Our target audience was intentionally selected and this display would not have been possible if it weren’t for their support. I appreciated the opportunity to interact with their network and witness the overflowing support of family friends, many of which knew Josh firsthand.
This was an inspiring day with far reaching impact, and I hope to continue this relationship with The Josh Anderson Foundation in our effort to send silence packing and to promote youth mental wellness.