Jamie Leigh's Adopted Children Come Together To Perservere
NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 12/5/2005 -- Congratulations are in order - Jamie Leigh has had her first babies - well not really, just call them her adopted children for now. Let's not forget that some of these babies have soft, smooth feet while others - fur, padded paws, claws, and yes - even wings and flippers.
Hundreds of inner city kids joined Leigh, http://www.jamieleigh.net to raise awareness and commit to 'A Lifetime Of Care', at Central Park's holiday exhibit and fair to raise awareness for the world's needy and at-risk animals and other countless social issues in New York this past week.
Most in attendance were shocked yet warmly reassured to see Leigh's appearance after news quickly spread early Tuesday morning of a nearly fatal car accident she was in which occured literally days before her scheduled participation. A detailed police report described how Leigh escaped thanks to angels above from a head-on collision on a suburban New Jersey street by an oncoming speeding and kareening out of control vehicle. "She was real smart. The scene was extremely dangerous especially once the fuel starting to burn after the initial impact, and she had enough sense to limp as far as she could with the help of the other witness and remain in the grass several feet away in case anything exploded - thank god it didn't." With what might have been a life-taking simple drive to a library, Leigh came out once again bruised and with broken bones, but strong as ever, and still committed to her prior engagements. "A lot of them at first looked at me like I had six heads and giant rabbit ears, it was funny, that's always a real fun reaction to get from people, I guess they just didn't expect I would turn up after the accident," Leigh said with a soft smile on her face. "It's always a good thing to surprise people, keep them on their toes with wonder, especially if they doubt you will follow through on something that most would sit out on or pass over - not me, it was so important to me that I be here, no matter what."
"That's real dedication right there," commented Lynn Hayden the buildings president. Perched on the northern shore of the Harlem Meer, the Park's northernmost body of water, was Central Park's newest building, which opened to the public in 1993. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center serves as the Upper Park's visitor center and offers a wide variety of the Conservancy's free family and community programs. "We spoke with Jamie for a bit between sessions of meeting with the kids, she's such a dear, we laughed a lot, she's got a great big smile and these sparkling eyes that the kids instantly connect to and feel at ease. There were hundreds of them coming in from all over and she was waiting for them as promised upstairs to talk with them, share her stories, how important it is to help animals and those in need, and never once took a break or came down to rest from the work."
Despite the delight of many at Leigh's loyalty, many workers acknowledged the usual calm and quiet building suddenly turned into a bit of a circus. "During the opening ceremony especially it was positively chaotic - there were kids everywhere! She came early in the morning before even many of the regular employees showed up, she rolled up her sleeves, tightened her cast a bit, and got straight to work staying into the wee hours of the night, it was inspiring to see that despite her personal life and injury, she still didn't want to let these children down, she had a job to do and wouldn't give up on that no matter what had happened."
New York City not only has the biggest population in need in the country, and the highest cost of healthcare, but also the most hospitals in economic distress--forty-five. Dozens of cash-starved New York hospitals are now in jeopardy of closing. Recently, the 'Act to Leave No Child Behind', a comprehensive children's bill, was introduced in the 107th congress which lays out a vision of how we can and must care for our children in the 21st Century. The act puts all of the pieces together because it is pointless to provide food for a child but not give him a decent home, and it is useless to give a child a good education if she has no health insurance and is sick and misses school. The act gives all Americans the opportunity to show that children ARE our national priority, not just a campaign promise. Several of the involved families and children came to visit Leigh and others this week, and they left with something that is more valuable than many adults may already know but not fully understand - the power of hope and a smile that someone does care.
Leigh's appearance was not only a wonderful treat for the hundreds of inner city kids whom were both bused and walked in from Harlem and surrounding poverty stricken areas, but it was also a great motivator to the other participants as well. "We had a ton of our volunteers and members of the public show up simply because they wanted to see if Jamie would be here, what she would look like, and how she was dealing - I think they were in awe of her, especially since she was laughing and having so much fund being in the company of those kids, she basically melted in with them that's how comfortable she was with them, and they her."
Leigh, saw no need for special treatment or recognition in her work despite what happened only days earlier. "I would have still showed up here if all of my limbs were in casts and I only had one hand, that would mean I could still hold a pen and write - maybe not as good as before, although I've always had pretty bad penmanship, I'd much rather doodle and sketch than write." Actually, she couldn't, or at least, had a difficult time doing so. As the kids entranced in Leigh's stories and welcome listened in, they noticed her inability to hold up the paintbrush or pen for long since her left arm which was injured in the crash was heavily wrapped and prevented her from using it for an extended period of time. "I have a deep cut underneath it and the wrist is fractured, but it's just a bone, it's just skin, I'll heal, this is fantastic that I'm able to be here and have this opportunity, I won't let a moment go to waste, I'll make due, one arm and all!"
Jamie Leigh's appearance at the animal exhibition and event was quite the mixture - literally. Some of New York's top pastry chef's got together to create their best and most creative gingerbread houses which were on display to the public for the entire run. Children filled the rooms where all of their senses were hit in some way. Smell from the candied creations, sound from the many video screens of dogs, cats, even birds and how they could help, sight from the holiday decorations filling the building, and of course taste, when various goodies were available with all donations going to charity.
Leigh was the image of bravery and perseverance while speaking to hundreds of local inner city kids about how they can make the world a better place while her own left arm lay tight to her body in a white cast and sling, and bandages from broken collarbones poked out from her heavy sweatshirt. "If the kids weren't inspired enough coming in here from the cold outside, they were instantly inspiried with what they can do in this world and not what so many have all their lives told them they couldn't because of their social backround for years - her physical presence up there, talking to them, showing them, laughing and playing with them, was about as close you can get to the real deal."
Leigh caught the eye of one special little boy named Brandon who ended up keeping the wounded Leigh's ear for nearly 4 hours strainght into the evening as they remained upstairs and painted rocks while sharing secrets and swapping future plans. "Many of us here weren't comfortable with the kids at first, especially the ones who come in from off the streets and don't know what to make of something like this, they get very nervous, shy, and quiet and quite often want to turn around and just leave, Jamie recognized that in this one boy and without saying a word, reached out and took his hand and led him upstairs - hours later they were laughing and painting the tables with little animals and people, it was the sweetest scene."
"I never want to think that I've done my job, or that job, I have a long way to go, and I need to keep growing and keep reaching more people. I never want to just sit and say, ok, now it's time to stop I've done enough. As long as I'm on this earth, as far as I'm concerned, there is always more work that needs to be done, more animals that are being killed and no one is saying a thing about it... more kids going to sleep afraid in their own beds with no food in their stomachs... so I'll do whatever I can while I'm here. This isn't any type of martyr mission, I genuinely do care, and when I see people being mistreated or ignored because of where they came from or what they lack, it pushes me to do something for them if they can't on their own, they just need a little help. There's a peace that you find in constant overlapping unrest in this world, and the more you work for that peace, the more doors I've found start to open a bit - you just need to really nudge them sometimes to get them going, and often, quite hard, and then if you keep at it long enough they'll swing wide open and it's up to you to get busy."
For these kids however, Leigh's message was a simple one. "You can be anything you want to be. Today you'll get a taste of what it would be like to be an artist," she said before introducing the various activities that were laid out. "Never allow anyone, no matter who they are, or what they do, try to convince you that you can't make a difference in this world, and that you can't do it on your own - because if you want it bad enough and work hard enough, you'll get there, I promise you." Kids were given animals cut in all shapes and colors to write thank you's to any dog or cat who may have helped them in their life, or inspired them to be a better person. One young participant named Masooi Hi said that when her mother was going through chemo from breast cancer and became bald none of her fellow classmates wanted to sit with her or play near her, if they did, they would make jokes about her mother without any hair. She would go home to their farm then after school and sit and talk with her horse whom always listened to what she had to say, and never ran away from her. That horses name was Misty, and she was the little girls best friend through that hard time. Masooi happily rushed towards the paper horses on the table, grabbed a marker and sat with Leigh and four other kids and wrote that thank you to the special horse she had been meaning to write to for a long time now.
"So many people say things and rarely mean it, she means everything thing she says which is why I felt despite her accident, she would still be here, I just knew she would, she knows she has important work to do, and she didn't disappoint. Her actions only solidify all that she's passionate about, she makes it happen."
At the conclusion of each session, Leigh and fellow workers collected all artwork that was created and hung them around the walls of the center. Materials, brochures, maps, even guides to adoption shelters in the area, how one can go through the process of adopting either a homeless or lost pet were also made available. An innovative new technology was also introduced called, "The Pet Finder" which allows one to adopt a pet into a loving home just as one would use their local atm machine. Leigh commented that, "Since it's the holiday season, these machines should be set up in all the biggest book stores, stores where people can come in, see this, and adopt them, it's so easy and I think this idea and concept is brilliant, we need more of them, and we need them in as many public places as possible, now is the time. I plan on campaigning to get these set up as soon as possible, all we need is store owners to agree and understand it's intent and purpose and a power plug, it's that simple."
"In the end, if the work I do lasts, and people are affected by it and continue to be affected by it in a positive and inspiring way, then I know that it's all worth it," Leigh said. "I'll keep getting out there and working in any way I can to wake people up to certain things and make those small differences that hopefully will someday equal up to something truly whole."
"I love this. Art is the one thing that universally joins people together from any part of the world, with any backround or past - it's the ultimate inspiration and drive. I jump in (well maybe a little slower at least for another few days) and get straight to work. The focus is key for me, to always remember why and who this is all for and what it will mean to them, especially if no one had stepped up for them before. There are thousands of people and living things out there that need my help, I still have a voice, so I plan on using it as long as people are willing to listen. "
The event was held at the Dana Discovery Center in Central Park New York and comes to a completion on December 11th. Leigh is currently healing up and what will come as no shock to those who know her, still forging on with her work as usual - casts, bandages, and all.
Field Report By Neil Gebhart, New York
Pictures From Event
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Pictures And Videos Courtesy, http://www.jamieleigh.net
The Dana Discovery Center
Jamie Leigh On The Web, http://www.jamieleigh.net