by Craig Juntunen
In a recent blog I wrote about the core message of STUCK: Love grows kids.
Tonight, those of us in the screening saw it up close and personal. Joining us in Atlanta were Stacey Chapman and her beautiful daughter Tihun. If you were at the Midtown Cinema in Atlanta tonight, you had the privilege of sharing a magical moment when I introduced Stacey and Tihun before the Q&A. They stood as mother and daughter to form the ultimate ‘after’ picture for an audience who had watched the beginnings of their special bond. When they came to the front of the theater they were welcomed with a standing ovation.
Their story graces STUCK because Stacey possessed the courage and strength to allow us to share their story with the rest of the world. All of us involved in the STUCK project are very grateful for her willingness to share a very personal story for the benefit of future generations of children.
Anyone who has seen the film is captivated by the connection between Stacey and Tihun. Clearly Tihun produces some of the most endearing moments of the film. But while she is magnetic in the film, she is even more charming in person. Tihun is now six, excelling in school, has many friends and is well on her way.
The last time I saw her was 9 months ago when we showed the film in the congressional theater. It is obvious how she has evolved: her smile, confidence and poise simply validates that love does grow kids.
It was wonderful to see Stacey and Tihun; they mean a lot to me personally and they represent so much of why Both Ends Burning exists. They brought an undeniable joy to the evening. But… (and there always is a ‘but…’) over all of the joy, a long shadow was still cast and represented in force as numerous families introduced themselves and told their tragic story of a child who is stuck. One has been stuck for over five years. Five years! One point of context is that Tihun is six. The dichotomy is haunting.
We had a full house in Atlanta. Tonight’s audience was fully engaged and I could hear how connected they were to the film by the way they reacted to the various scenes. I am grateful for the volunteer group for working so hard to fill the theater. The filmed played great tonight, but the real magic were the people who made it real.
The faces of reality created an emotional and meaningful evening I won’t forget. As we roll out of Atlanta, I know it is a long road ahead. And tonight will serve as a powerful reminder of “why” on those days I feel discouraged and wonder why.