HeARTwords Celebrates the Holidays

January 6, 2015

"With the new year approaching, what is your most important resolution?"

"If you could change one event or choice in your past, what would it be and why?"

These were just two of the tough questions tackled by writers at the fifth annual heARTwords Holiday Party in December. Over 80 community members, volunteers, family members, and friends gathered at the Center for Independent Futures (CIF) office on a Saturday afternoon to write, share, and celebrate the season.

As usual, the heARTwords writing workshop session started with time spent crafting responses to various prompts created by Barry Siegel, heARTword's founder, CIF life skills tutor, and published poet. Before the guests arrived, writers shared their compositions among the group. Later, the community opened its doors to family and friends. With the crowd assembled, heARTwords community members shared their responses to another prompt: "What brings you back to heARTwords every two weeks?" For Barry, these responses reiterated the gratitude shared by family members at the event.

"The true gift of heARTwords isn't the two and half hours that we spend together," Barry explains. "It's that heARTwords gives the community members the confidence to express themselves with more clarity to everyone they meet."

After each participant had the chance to share, it was the audience's turn. Barry led an interactive heARTwords exercise with the family and friends present, asking them to name something they have accomplished in their lives that they feel proud of. The afternoon ended with lively socializing around plentiful sandwiches and assorted desserts.

The heARTwords community, now in its fifth year, has 30 members and 12 volunteers, which include Northwestern University students and other friends of Barry. Barry created heARTwords to encourage participants with special needs, gifts, and disabilities to express their feelings, observations, and imaginations through the written word. The community has grown from its origins of just a few writers and now welcomes a diverse group of loyal attendees. "Nobody ever misses heARTwords," Barry says.

For more information about the heARTwords writing community and how to get involved, please call the CIF office at (847) 328-2044.


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