Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need to come home until you’re there.
That’s how I felt returning to the We Are Family Foundation’s Just Peace Summit four years after my participation as one of their Global Teen Leaders in 2011. I was to screen Twitch for its grandest premiere, right in the heart of the Big Apple. It was a special screening for many reasons. Not only was I screening in front of a crowd of hugely influential teenagers and their facilitators, but I was also returning to the place where Twitch got its start.
In 2011, I was invited to participate in a global summit for teen leaders as a result of my work with the Chapel Hill High School Green Tiger Campaign. I arrived in New York City in March of that year, unaware of what type of impact the week would have, not only for myself, but on thousands of individuals affected by Huntington’s disease.
As a global teen leader, I was tasked with creating an action plan, a detailed guide for executing a project related to my endeavor. I tried to write one for my environmental campaign, but something felt off about it. I talked to my mentors and facilitators, asking if there was any flexibility in switching my project to something I had always been interested in, but never had the chance to pursue: film making.
I switched my action plan and developed the first proposal for Twitch. My mentors from the summit connected me to producers, directors and seasoned film makers who helped me develop a film treatment, production plan and fundraising goal. By the end of 2011, I was ready to execute my new and improved action plan.
Four years later, I was standing in the very same NYC studio where the idea for Twitch came to fruition. Not only that, I was amongst family members—new and old Global Teen Leaders, mentors, former TEDxTeen speakers, and friends—all of whom shared an intense passion for creating positive impact in their communities.
And I was SO incredibly nervous. There’s something about being in a room of young CEOs, leaders, and future presidents, all under the age of 20, that makes a person’s stomach fill with butterflies. Maybe the nerves were a result of my high standards or perceptions of a tough crowd, but I think I just knew that no other screening would be this special.
On Wednesday, March 25, I hosted the #bestscreeningever at the #bestsummitever. Over 80 individuals from the Summit and the city came together in the welcoming studio to share popcorn from the Prospector Theater (learn more about this awesome organization here) and my story. Monique Coleman, a close friend best known for her role in the movie series High School Musical, opened the night and from there, the lights dimmed and the screening began.
At the end of the screening, Monique and I opened a Q&A for the audience. I received some of the most breathtaking stories, questions and statements. From my heroes to cancer survivors to genetic counselors, the Q&A and meet & greet afterwards were both profound and absolutely life changing.
After the program ended, I received congratulations from the people I admire most. Several individuals came up to me offering assistance in the distribution process, many of whom would e-mail me in less than 24 hours with affirmations, introductions, connections and tips on getting Twitch out to the world. Some of these e-mails inspired me to continue my work beyond this screening.
One of these can be found below:
Congratulations on last night!!! I am so so happy I got to be there and share it with friends. The documentary was breathtaking and impactful in so many ways. I loved that it not only increases care and awareness for a very important cause but also transmits a broader, positive message about living life with passion and trying to find happiness now, rather than later. I feel those lessons more strongly than I have in awhile, and I hope it sticks – when it fades, I will think of you and the film to reignite them!
Additionally, my hero posted a Facebook photo and comment that described the night far better than I ever could.
It’s really hard for me to articulate the night of March 25. This blog post is frustrating to write because I feel like I can’t do this screening justice. Until I can find the words, I will leave you readers with a profound thanks for continuing to support me in this journey. The past four years have been frustrating, emotional, rewarding and life-changing. At times, I didn’t think this film would ever come to fruition. But with the support of my many families, I was able to return home to the place where it all started. I will never forget it.