On January 13, we had the launch party for Epiphany at Gallery Brown in Los Angeles. It was also a little benefit for the Sunshine Kids, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to “helping kids with cancer smile” by putting on events for them and taking them on trips while they are battling their illness. G.W. Bailey, the wonderful actor currently on TNT’s The Closer and the Executive Director of the Sunshine Kids, is a dear friend whom I met while doing a play with him in Austin. Oddly enough, it was during this play that I had the epiphany which sparked the idea for this project. (You can read about it in the Introduction to the book.) G.W.’s story about the epiphany he experienced during a Sunshine Kids event opens the book. When he first came in contact with the Sunshine Kids, they were maybe touching about 40 children and their families a year with their work. Now, they are reaching thousands. His quote that titles his story is “When one life changes, many lives change.” I opened the book with this because I have found this to be one of the major truths about epiphanies. They change our lives if we act on them, and in turn, we can’t help but affect and change others. As G.W. pointed out, “It’s just what happens…it’s a ripple effect. And you never know how far that ripple will go. Usually, it’s much farther than you ever could imagine.”
G.W. came to the event and brought several of the wonderful people who work with the Sunshine Kids. One of them was Katie Sparks, a former Sunshine Kid. I had no idea she was going to speak, and I’m very grateful she did because this eighteen-year-old, in the most articulate, direct way, described for all of us there exactly what the Sunshine Kids provides for kids battling cancer in a very visceral way. G.W. talked about it in his interview, and I’d been to a Sunshine Kids event (complete with python snake, which is a story for another day), but hearing it from Katie enabled me to truly grasp just how important the work they are doing is. She talked about how lonely and isolated she had become because of her disease and all the things that make you strange to other kids when you are going through chemo and other things while fighting it. When she went on her Sunshine Kids’ trip, she developed friendships with kids going through the same things she was and for the first time in a very long time, she didn’t feel strange or weird and she actually laughed and felt like a normal teenager again. She described how she has never felt alone since that trip, and the people she met on it are still some of her best friends. These new friends and the Sunshine Kids mentors’ love and support gave her renewed energy and joy about life. Today, I am happy to report that Katie is a lovely, healthy eighteen-year-old, and is about to start college! (And she obviously has a future in public speaking if she decides that is what she wants to do – people really started donating, buying books and wanted to volunteer after she spoke!)
I am leaving tomorrow to start traveling for my book events in Texas, New Orleans and San Francisco. I hopefully will be able to post from the road but wanted to go ahead and tell a bit of the story of our first event and thank everyone who made the night so special: Dina Brown, who hosted the event at her beautiful gallery; everyone who came and supported the book and the Sunshine Kids; and all of the remarkable Los Angeles interviewees who were able to come – Gregory Wilson, Orian Williams, Wendi Cooper, Florence Horne (our eldest contributor at 91 years of age! video), Dr. Judith Orloff, Andrea Buchanan (video) and, of course, G.W. Bailey (video), whose favorite quote of all-time is by J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, and is the motto of the Sunshine Kids. It sums up for me of what this night, these people and now the readers and the people writing in to Epiphany Channel have brought and continue to bring to my life and to the lives of so many others and therefore, as the quote says, to themselves…
“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” – J. M. Barrie
To see more photos of the event, please check out our Fan Page on Facebook!