Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Music Got Me Here" at the Kennedy Center

Reflections from Forrest’s Aunt Lynn: 

I am honored to share my perspective on the recent Kennedy Center premiere of Music Got Me Here.  This documentary film is a beautiful compilation of how two people crossed paths and because of it, so many lives have been touched. 

There are times in life when difficult things happen. Sometimes these challenges cause a ripple of determination, goodness, heartache and tears, as well as joy and hope, to circle a family, a community – even a world – and make it better and stronger, filled with the best that the human spirit has to offer. We can see God’s love in action, working its way into hearts and providing comfort and strength. 

The screening of Music Got Me Here at the Kennedy Center on January 10th brought seven challenging years to light. It showed the power of music as an instrument to connect two lives—Tom Sweitzer, who turned to music to heal his childhood, and Forrest, whose family sought help in the power of music therapy to bring back Forrest’s voice after his traumatic brain injury. The film powerfully documents how both people’s lives were changed by this connection. 

In attendance that evening were so many of Forrest’s doctors. I am in awe of their talents to help heal people. Additionally, I was blessed to be a part of the journey and watch the village it took to bring about this miracle... so many contributors, so much love. The aides, the nurses, the amazing family support (Kent, Rae, and Austin, aunts, uncles, cousins), the therapists, the friends, the faithful groups of prayer partners all over the world, along with Tom’s talents and Forrest’s determination, were all key in piecing a beautiful puzzle back together. The movie is a inspiration that will keep bringing hope to others as it is shared. 

And yet, the most inspiring part to me is the desire to give back and pay it forwardForrest knows that his role in life now is to keep on helping others, and Tom continues to change lives as he works with more people facing struggles and guides others entering the field of music therapy. I can only hope that many more will be able to experience the power of hope in a world that often doesn’t feel hopeful. It’s a beautiful message.

I remember the standing ovations seemingly went on forever. People were moved by seeing this journey, a long one, a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs. We walked in worn down by a world, and walked out inspired to live with hope and help be a part of making good happen. It was incredible to share in the joy of this moment of celebration.

There was an energy in the room that night that was powerful, like an electric current. Love is powerful. Hope is powerful. Music is powerful. Each of us has a chance to be a part of a “pay it forward” story every day in some big or small way.  I know TomKent, Rae, and Austin will be doing that. And especially Forrest, with his gratitude for what was done for him, his big heart and with Toliver by his side, always looking for ways to make the world around them betterMay that be a message that resonates with all of us.  

           Aunt Lynn spent many months helping all of us us when I was hospitalized.                               

                      On stage at the Kennedy Center with Dr Francis Collins,
                       Renee Flemming, Susan Koch and Tom was Awesome!

Dr Kumar was on a mission in Peru, but it was great that Dr Armonda, one of the neurosurgeons who believed in me when I needed it most, was there!

It was really special having Granma Norma, Aunt Lynn and Aunt in Law Amy there!

               Some of Austin's and my friends.  Couldn't have made it without them.

                      Doesn't Granma Norma look wonderful. She just turned 90!!!

Amy Stone is one of my great friends and a Co-Star in the film.

Renee Flemming graciously welcomed us all to the Kennedy Center.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trip to St. Louis

Last weekend, I went with Mum to St. Louis to go to the American Music Therapy Conference.  At the opening of the conference, we showed a 10 minute clip from "Music Got Me Here" to over 1800 music therapists and then we showed the whole movie 2 times during the conference.  Tom and other friends from A Place to Be were there as well.  A Place to Be, specifically Tom, received the Professional Practice Award for this year.  It was incredible to be there to see A Place to Be get this recognition.  Here are some pictures from the trip.

Toliver and I on the plane

We stayed at a cool hotel that used to be a train station. 
They did an incredible light show every hour!
With Music Therapists from A Place to Be - Ray and Tom

Having fun with Tom and Toliver at a park in St. Louis

2 cool dudes and our new friend the bunny
I met so many cool people like Dr Kwan!
One extra special thing was that I got to go for a hike with my
Uncle Brad, Jackson, cousin Jennifer, and her adorable kids

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October Update

Hello everyone, it's Forrest.  Sorry that it has been so long since we updated the blog.  I only spent two nights at the hospital in Cleveland after my last surgery.  My recovery has been good and I have been busy.

Me with Tom, Kim, Grace, Toliver and the Matthews
Two weeks ago, I was proud to be a part of the annual A Place to Be Fundraiser to raise money for the Forrest Stone Allen Financial Aid Fund.  This Fund helps provide assistance to families and individuals that could not otherwise afford music or art based therapy.  At the fundraiser, we showed a 10 minute clip of the movie, "Music Got Me Here" that features myself and Tom Sweitzer and shows how music helped us both in life and helped me find my voice.  A Place to Be also premiered their brand new musical called "One Second of Grace" at the fundraiser.  The show talks about challenges teenagers face in their everyday lives.  We met our goal during the weekend - raising over $100,000 for families in need!  Thank you to everyone that helped that weekend and those who gave money to the fund.  A special thank you to the Matthews for opening their amazing property, Trillium Farm, for us to use to host the event.  And also, thank you to Grace Wheeler - the inspiration behind the new show "One Second of Grace."  The fundraiser was featured in the most recent edition of the Middleburg Eccentric.  It is not available online at this time, but we will share it when it is.  There are a lot of great pictures, so be sure to check it out.

Filming with Barbara Harrison from NBC
Also this month, Tom and I were on the news!  We met with Barbara Harrison, from NBC Washington for interviews and they aired a great special about music therapy and "Music Got Me Here" last week.  Barbara was really nice and fun to talk to. Here is the link if you would like to watch it:  https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/health/Music-Therapy-Helps-Man-Regain-Voice-After-Snowboarding-Acci_Washington-DC-451980993.html

The final big thing that has happened so far this month is that the movie "Music Got Me Here" screened at the Middleburg Film Festival!  It had two screenings - one on Saturday and one on Sunday, both followed by a Q&A session with myself, Tom, Susan Koch (the director of the film), Toliver and my parents.  It was cool to look out into the audience to see a mix of local Middleburg people and those that came to the film festival from out of town.  I also got to see a few of my former nurses and teachers.

At the Middleburg Film Festival with Tom, my parents and the film crew -
Editor Georgia Koch, Director Susan Koch and Director of Photography Neil Barrett

With APTB family featured in the film - Cameron, Kim, Brendan, Amy and Tom
Thank you everyone for giving me your support and for supporting APTB and Music Got Me Here.
- Forrest

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Post Surgery Update

Forrest's surgery yesterday went smoothly.  Dr. Kumar is very happy with the outcome.  He was able to remove most of the hardware and revise the graft.  We can't wait to see it in full once the dressing is removed!  He has not had any complications post-op, and although sleep itself was hard to come by, he had a quiet night.

Sleepy post-op smiles
 In other news, please enjoy these pics from last weekend's CCI DogFest.  Forrest was co-captain of the Middleburg Laboradorables team with his friend Caroline Elgin.  They were the fourth highest fundraising team in our area!  (Photos courtesy of Nikki Cheshire)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Planned Surgery

Hello friends, Tami here.  Team 44 is in Cleveland this week for Forrest to have surgery tomorrow (Friday, September 15th).  This was a planned surgery to reduce the likelihood of the recurrent infections that have beleaguered Forrest.  Why Cleveland, you may ask?  Forrest's surgeon, Dr. Kumar, who has poured countless hours into rebuilding 44's skull, left Johns Hopkins and is now at a hospital here in Cleveland.  We wouldn't have anyone else operate on Forrest's skull, so here we are!   The goals for this surgery are to remove as much of the remaining hardware (screws, plates...etc) as is no longer needed and remove as much of the old graft as possible to restore healthy scalp.  Dr. Kumar may also harvest fat from Forrest (if they can find any on his skinny frame!) to transplant to further protect his bone and even out what 44 calls his "speed bumps on his noggin".

We hope to be home early in the week.  As hard as it is to go back to the hospital, looking at the recent devastation from hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, we consider ourselves so lucky to even have a hospital to go to for this opportunity to continue to strengthen and protect Forrest's skull.

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers for Forrest.  We will update tomorrow.

- Tami

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Busy Summer!

Hey everyone, it's Forrest.  Sorry that it has been a while, I have had several things to do.  Here is a recap of what I have been up to this summer.

I was part of 4 A Place to Be Summer Camps!  I played an aspiring rock star in "Penny the Piano", played instruments, sang songs and danced during "Pop Rocks Recording", was a Junior Mentor for the second "Pop Rocks" and learned about acting and being expressive during "Theater Improv".

I have also been working a few hours a week at Dolphin Quest and have helped out at home on the farm.

The most important thing that I have done this summer was that I went on a family vacation with my parents and brother to go fly fishing in Montana.  It was an amazing experience to be able to do some things that I haven't been able to do since my accident.  I went wet wading and fly fishing with my "adopted grandma" Marcia Woolman; crossed streams on foot (under the watchful eye of Austin); got up early to go to where an animal had died to watch the grizzlies and wolves gather for food and we saw a lot of wildlife in general like bison, bears, pronghorns, ospreys, wolves, longhorn sheep, mountain goats, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (and lots of kinds of trout) and thousands of insects including giant thirsty mosquitos!  We also went on a 14 mile trail ride on horseback.  It felt like I was back in the days before I hit my head.  It felt like old times.  It was very nice to be able to hang out and relax with Austin for a week.  With him away at school most of the year, we don't get a lot of time like that together.

Here are a bunch of pictures from the trip:


Monday, June 5, 2017

A Month of Adventures (with a lot of pictures!)

Hi everyone!  This is Forrest.  It has been a little over a month since we last updated and I have a lot to fill you in on!

Speaking to the crowd at Berklee after showing the movie
On May 10th, Mom and Dad rolled out to the Galapagos and Toliver, Tami and I went to Boston.  My Music Therapist Tom was graduating from Berklee College of Music with a Masters in Music Therapy that week.  We weren't able to go to his graduation, but we went for a special premiere of the documentary movie that Tom and I are in.  We showed the film to a group of his music therapy peers and classmates.  They thought it was very good and liked seeing how Music Therapy affected my situation.

Mini Golf at the Mall of America
The next day, Tami, Toliver and I flew to Minnesota.  We went to Minnesota to see Tami's family.  This was my first long trip away without either of my parents.  While in Minnesota, we went to the Mall of America, the Minnesota Zoo and a Minnesota Twins baseball game.  It was a great trip.  One highlight was Toliver at the zoo.  He was well behaved and when we saw the wolves, they put their front paws on the glass and seemed to recognize that Tollie is a canine.  They were whining and wagging their tails like they wanted to play.  Toliver was also the first dog ever in their new kangaroo walk-through exhibit!
With some of Tami's family at the zoo

At the Minnesota Twins Game!

Wolf saying "hi" to Toliver!

After we all returned from our adventures, I went with Mom and Dad to visit a friend named Lee Lee.  Lee Lee has a Traumatic Brain Injury as well and is recovering at Bryn Mawr rehab in Pennsylvania.  She is making tremendous progress since her accident in December!

With Lee Lee
This last weekend, Tom and I went to the Kennedy Center and spoke in front of a whole bunch of people about how music was a part of my recovery.  We showed a segment from the documentary and then spoke for a bit.  This was part of a big event on Friday and Saturday that was called "Sound Health: Music and the Mind" and it talked about the brain and it's connection to music.  It was a partnership between the National Institute of Health and the Kennedy Center.  I got to meet a lot of really cool and important people like - Musician Ben Folds, Musician Renee Fleming, and Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH.  Here is a YouTube link to the panel that Tom and I were a part of on Saturday.  Our part begins around minute 11!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzJB3oI4RHM&sns=fb

With amazing singer, Renee Fleming!
Renee has seen "Music Got Me Here" and she really liked it!

Windy, squished group pic before the Friday night NSO Concert
With Tom and Ben Folds!

Shayna and Gio (not pictured) came for dinner and the Symphony on Friday and Corina and Madeline came to the see my panel on Saturday at the Kennedy Center!

And...speaking of the documentary, we have a new title!  Most of you know it as "High Notes", but it is now "Music Got Me Here".  Here is our first official poster!  We will share the new website link soon!