Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Continuing Journey - 10/20/13 Update

It has been a while since we have checked in with you and like usual, Team Forrest has been busy!  Forrest is continuing to attend Kettle Run High School for US History and he is doing great in the class.  He is showing signs of improved memory and retention as well as increased initiative in class participation and interactions.  He has been making almost weekly trips to his surgeon in Washington DC for injections into his scalp expanders, which he says, “really sucks and hurts a lot”! His scalp wounds and “noggin” are closely monitored and treated daily by his nurses and parents.  Last weekend, Forrest had the opportunity to participate in a community event during the Middleburg Film Festival.  Forrest and other individuals from “A Place to Be” performed various musical offerings in two locations amidst the activity of a busy Middleburg autumn afternoon.  It was exciting to be a part of this inaugural event!

Forrest and part of his team (Mum, Tami and Nurses Laura and Dawn) are currently in Long Island, New York at Canine Companions for Independence.   For the next two weeks, Rae (Mum) and Forrest will be participating in training for Forrest to receive a skilled companion dog.  If all goes well and Forrest passes the training, at the end of the two weeks here, he will return home to BrightWood with his very own assistance dog!  The training is intensive, 9:00-5:00 every day, listening, learning, interacting, practicing and taking quizzes.  Forrest is attentive, volunteers to demonstrate or practice tasks and is working on improving his voice volume and clarity while giving commands.  If that was not enough, he also spends his evenings doing school work with Tami to stay on top of his class.  We are so thankful for the incredible Fauquier County School staff that helped make this trip a possibility, despite the challenge of keeping up with the rapid pace of the US History course. 

Monday was the first day of training here at CCI, and Forrest has already shown sparks of his growing independence.  He is taking initiative in participation and is making his way around the CCI facility with the confidence of pre-injury Forrest.  He is staying in a dorm hall with his team and has been keeping track of his own room key each day.  We see signs of independence at home, but it is amazing to watch him here, in a place unfamiliar to him.  He got up from the table at dinner last night, scraped his plate, rinsed it and asked me where the dishwasher was.  Then he wandered into the pantry seeking “dessert”.  Despite all of these amazing steps of independence, Forrest continues to require 24/7 care – there is someone with him at all times day and night, just like at home.

Sometimes I think we must seem strange for marveling at and celebrating little things like keeping track of a room key or scraping a plate clean, but then I remember where Forrest was a year ago, and I want to marvel and celebrate even more.  One year ago, Forrest was not talking.  He was not walking independently.  His arms and legs were tight with tone and it took stretching and extreme effort just for him to complete a simple task.  He was 100% fed through a stomach tube.  Travel was a major undertaking – motion sickness was frequent and long trips were made on a gurney.  His smiles and facial expressions were limited and he rarely laughed out loud or made vocal sounds.  Every moment of his day required major assistance of nurses and others, from getting dressed, repositioning himself in bed, to brushing his teeth, communicating and everything in between.  What a difference a year makes!   We are looking forward to see what great things are next for Forrest and are excited at the prospect of a new canine Team Forrest member!
Thank you all for never giving up the faith in Forrest and for supporting him every step of his recovery!

With gratitude,
Tami and Team Forrest  
"Life is Better With a Dog"
Forrest in his dorm room at CCI
Homework time with Tami

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back to Mercersburg Again 10/20/13

Hey it's Forrest. Yesterday my mom and I visited Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania where I went to school my freshman sophomore and part of my junior year. It was great to see my best friends there again. They all looked happy to see me. It was great to see and talk to some of my teachers and coaches again. It made me feel like I still belonged there. Take a look at some of these photos.  One of your buddies, Forrest Allen

Friday, October 11, 2013


Hello this is Forrest. How are all of you guys doing today?  I would really like to thank all of those who came to see The Same Sky Project.  It is great when I am on stage and to look out into the crowd and see friendly and familiar faces.  Thanks to all of you for coming and supporting me and the rest of the cast.  I would also like to thank Tom Sweitzer and Kim Tapper, the directors and leaders of A Place to Be for making this show happen.

There is one more show - tomorrow (October 12th) at noon at McLean Bible Church.  I hope you can come and see it.

Here are some pictures from yesterday's show at my old high school, Highland.
Coach Leake from Highland gave me this sweatshirt before the show!
It was good to see one of my nurses, Karen, at the show.
Getting ready to go on stage for the show.  Thanks Nurse Laura for keeping me safe back stage last night!
Nick Weeden's parents
came to see the show.
With Mr Sweitzer and James (a Highland student) and the poster Highland made to welcome me and the cast.
Me giving Miss Tapper a birthday hug after the performance.
Surrounded by almost all of my friends
that came to see last nights show! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

We All Live Under the Same Sky

Hey 44, its Tami.  I am so excited to write the blog to you today!  We had a long and very busy week here at Team Forrest last week.  You had a quiz and a test at school, a lot of homework, physical therapy, speech therapy, a guitar lesson and two play practices...and that is only through Thursday!  Friday was the big day - the opening night of The Same Sky Project.  We shared about the project in the last entry on your blog and invited friends and family to come see the show...and they did!  At each of the three shows this past weekend, you had many supporters and fans there to cheer you and the other performers on. 

I have been lucky enough to be backstage for all three shows and find myself in awe every time.  I watch as you all prepare for your scenes, some dance nervously, some wait quietly and excitedly while others double check their lines or go through their motions off stage, but then I watch as you and your co-stars take the stage with mountains of confidence and pride as you share your stories with us of what life is like living with unique challenges.  And you, Forrest, I watch as you frequently check your script, read your cues, watch others on stage with attentiveness and patiently wait for your turn.  During the show on Saturday night, I was standing in the wings with your Music Therapist, Tom Sweitzer, as you took the stage for your special dance, monologue and song.  We watched, listened, and fought back tears as you did every part of the dance, clearly spoke every word, and sang every note.  I do not know if I have ever been more proud of you than in that moment.  Someone in our community said to me today, "That Forrest, he sure is a miracle."  How true, Forrest.  You are a miracle and we are all so blessed to know you and watch you grow every day.

For those of you that have not had a chance to see Same Sky, or would like to see it again, you are in luck!  This talented group of performers has two more performances this week - Thursday evening at 7pm at Highland School in Warrenton and Saturday at noon at McLean Bible Church.  Please spread the word to everyone and anyone in this area.  This is a show no one should miss!!!

Below are a couple of pictures from Same Sky and here is a link to a video of the cast -
The Same Sky Project cast
Just a few of the many friends that came to see a show this weekend!