Tom Tom Festival’s Crowdfunded Pitch Night!
Here’s the text - about a minute to read.
It’s appropriate that today is April 11th. April will always be a bittersweet month for me, and the month that led me to this stage.
On April 10th, 2014 my husband and I welcomed our second daughter into this world. Like all births it felt magical. Soon thereafter we learned our baby girl, Kiran, had Down syndrome. And while this news can feel challenging for lots of parents, it felt all the more daunting for us because my husband, Kris, had terminal cancer. He died 2 weeks later.
And there I was a 34 year-old widow with two beautiful daughters, and I felt like I had fallen through a trapdoor. Kiran’s diagnosis in April of 2014 felt, let’s say, a little unfair, but now I can say with confidence that Kiran’s Down Syndrome can be challenge and Kiran is the greatest gift.
When I was younger I was focused on being a super-achiever. I ended up playing soccer and basketball at UVA and I was the captain of both teams. Then I went to New York City to play professional soccer. Growing up it felt important to me to be the best. But now that same pursuit of being the best feels like yet another trapdoor. Kiran has helped clarify a new life path for me. And in this one I’m focused on being a good person, and that’s why I’m up here tonight.
Kindness Cafe + Play will be a non-profit coffee shop in Charlottesville that will provide meaningful employment for people with cognitive disabilities. It will have excellent coffee, delicious food and a space unlike any other in Charlottesville - where people with and without disabilities interact as peers. It will absolutely change the lives of these two men behind me and their families.
It will provide employment for a population of people who nationwide are unemployed or underemployed at a tragic rate of 70%. And it will also create a sense of belonging for this same community of people who historically have been rejected and ignored.
However, tonight I’m not here to convince you that Kindness Cafe + Play will be good for these two wonderful young men. I’m here to tell you that I’m starting Kindness for all of you. I’m building a space where Max, Crosby and other adults can remind YOU and remind ME what it means to be human, to remind us of our most common values of kindness and community.
In this world that often feels like a race, generally speaking people with cognitive disabilities are not concerned with finishing first. They are less likely to seek status. They are less likely to seek power and tend to care more about relationships - the giving and receiving of love. They are more likely to live in the now and be uniquely concerned with how YOU and I are doing in the present moment.
I’ve visited and researched lots of similar cafes around the country. The good news is that we don’t need to wonder about the financial viability or the positive impact of this future cafe. There are successful models all around shouting that Charlottesville ought be next.
Your vote will help me hire these first two team members for their benefit but also for your benefit. So as a community let’s commit to valuing the gifts in all of us and let’s commit to Kindness.