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Dreams. Dreams inspire us on cloudy days to get moving until we can see the sun shining again.  They lead us down avenues we would never choose for ourselves and often plop us down on our path to destiny without so much as a warning.  Dreams teach us daily about our own persistent focus and determination. Dreams often catch us somewhere between reality and everything we’ve ever wanted. They beckon us to come forward, fleeing our own fears and unworthiness to catch up to them.

Last week, I began to see a dream come to life around me. Since Anne launched her infamous Penelope Project several years ago, I have felt such a yearning to do something similar. Never did I imagine, my dreams would one day intersect reality and I would be standing in that perfect spot. Yet it happened.

Together, Anne and I began to dream of this project that will engage our Elders (and communities in general) in different aspects of their creativity. We lovingly dubbed it “Wendy’s Dream” between us yet quickly realized we should name it something broader, more recognized. Before long, “I Won’t Grow Up-Kentucky” began to take shape.

After nearly two years of planning, research, organizing, grant writing, calls, meeting, and driving around rural Kentucky, we finally started to see the dream take shape around us. Last week, we were finally able to bring together a team of Elders, Artists, and Quality of Life Directors from around the state of Kentucky to participate in our first Create Change Institute.

While the Create Change Institute is nothing new to Anne, it was a whole new world to our teams. We learned the importance of asset mapping to drive partnerships in local areas, the value of creativity at any age and participated in workshops that left us all aching for more.

The workshops were designed to be loosely associated with the mythical tale of Peter Pan. Those workshops were designed to bring us together in an immersive creative experience that could drive us into the intricacies of our imaginations. Wow.

Kevin “Iega” Jeff taught us how to fly. He demonstrated the beauty of becoming one with our inner self and just “letting go”. As individuals we get so caught up on task that we forget to just let go and be.  I sat next to an Bonnie, an Elder living at Signature HealthCare at Heritage Hall.  She turned to me and said, “Let’s fly together.”  Just like that, Bonnie and I closed our eyes and joined hands moving in time to the music and blocking out the world. She exclaimed it was “like a magic carpet ride”!

Andee Rudloff and Bobby Martin helped us tap into our childhood memories and stories to create beautiful tapestries that we hung. Bonnie and I enjoyed getting paint on our hands and throwing ourselves into the creation process. Her smile was priceless as she talked about her grandmother’s biscuits being her favorite childhood memory!

Cheyenne Mize led us through the sounds of home. She inspired us to use our bodies as instruments and walked us through blending sounds together to make a beautiful melody. She led us to discover the harmonies that shaped our lives and the sounds that we associate with our own homes.

Jeff Becker helped us to visualize space differently. He showed us how to take an ordinary, boring space and start to assign meaning to it. It’s all about the meaning that WE assign to the space that makes it special. Any space can become a sacred or beautiful space for our Elders.

Dominic Campbell closed out our days by giving us pause for reflection. He reminded us of the need to reverse the river flow on “Planet Dementia”.  He inspired us to allow our arms to be big enough to change a culture of guilt and open ourselves up to the promise of Neverland.

Looking through the other side of the window as Peter once did, I can’t help but see the ship in the horizon! The images of Elders living vibrant lives and the joy of our Stakeholders as they give themselves permission to create something magical alongside the Elders they love.  I see communities full of joy, being led by their hearts and imaginations. My dreams are once again stirred as to what can become of this project.  I Won’t Grow Up-Kentucky has been launched and together our teams of Artists, Elders and Quality of Life Directors are off on a 3 year adventure through the mythical world of Neverland. They will become explorers, creators, and innovators as they guide us along this journey.  They will lead us down a path where imaginations can grow and childhood fantasies live.

 I can almost hear Peter Pan saying to Wendy, “Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown up things again. Never is an awfully long time.”  Can’t you?