by Craig Juntunen
The Boston experience was a home run on many fronts. We had a very full theater, and it was filled with many people who have positively influenced Both Ends Burning and the STUCK experience. I would like to recognize the entire volunteer team who put it all together. I am grateful for the efforts of this team.
There was a lot going on tonight.
In the audience tonight was Daniel Rodman, the fantastic musician who wrote and performed our credit roll song “All My Love”. I met Dan while we were conducting a feedback screening and heard him perform live. I asked him to send me some of his work and once I heard “All My Love”, I instantly felt it had a place in STUCK. Dan Rodman and Daniel Baron—another young artist who wrote and performed music in the film—are both future stars and it is an honor to have their special talents connected to this project. Both of them, like most things in STUCK, just showed up one day, and it was easy for me to connect the dots. In some context, that is what I do: connect the dots.
Tonight, there were a lot of special people in the audience that I have had the good fortune to connect with.
Besides Dan, we also had the Oellrich family: Harry—a Both Ends Burning board member—and his wife Roxanne, were of real help tonight. However, their kids made the real emotional impact. Many of you know their kids, Edy, Marc and Jeanette, as the Wheaties kids from the film. Their interstitial scene (a film term for a pallet cleanser) is the one on the white bench, talking about food, cereal, to be exact. It is a charming moment in the film, an authentic conversation proving kids are kids, irrespective of where they were born. The three of them volunteered last night to sell merchandise after the Q&A and it was such a success that I have asked them to take on that duty for the next few shows. It is meaningful to have the audience connect with the three of them after seeing them on the screen. It will be fun to have them as part of the crew.
Also in the audience last night was Filis Casey, the original Both Ends Burning board member, who is one of the real pioneers of international adoption. She is the person who really inspired the creation of Both Ends Burning. Joining Filis was Mahsa Noble, another board member who is also an enormous source of support. I was very proud both Filis and Mahsa were in the audience tonight.
My friends Pete Lepponen and Sara Dillon were also in attendance. They are both recognized as leaders in the field of child welfare and have been mentors and advisers to me and Both Ends Burning.
Our special guest tonight was Kathleen Strottman. Kathleen is Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about the needs of children without families and to remove policy barriers that hinder children from knowing the love and support a family provides. I am also lucky to call Kathleen a friend as she has stood behind this project and what it could do to advance the cause. From the very beginning, she appreciated our vision and supported it and that support has made a difference.
Kathleen is a passionate defender of the rights of a child to belong in a family and is recognized as one of the country’s leading policy experts in the field. Her presence in STUCK is critical to the story and message. Watching her respond to questions tonight was very inspirational. She is an extremely credible expert on the issue and I was proud to have her address the audience, offering the STUCK experience some broader context. For the record, she flew in from D.C. this afternoon just to be here tonight. That effort and sacrifice underscores the kind of person she is.
As we head south to New York, the energy of a great night in Boston will soon connect to a new audience in NY. It is all about connecting dots to form the social and political will to change things. I feel a sense of gratitude to everyone who showed up tonight, and especially to the people who arrived in the spirit of connecting to do something significant together.