remodling the castle

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Six years ago I sat in the pews of a somber church, surrounded by people celebrating the life of and mourning the loss of my brother, Corby. I stood in front of the crowd and shared memories of my brother. My mom and sister did as well. But it was when his girlfriend stood up and read a poem that he had written before he passed away, that my world would change even more than it already had. 

The poem was about how he was going to take control of his messed up life. How he would turn it all around. I could hardly comprehend the words, until she got to one line: "I will begin to steadily lay the foundation to my castle." 

It was like lightning hit me and I realized: He will never have the opportunity to build his castle. I have to do it for him. A few months later I kicked off my non-profit, Corby's Castle. 

I knew that I wanted Corby's Castle to be something that impacted young people's lives in a positive way. I knew that service was going to be the most important component, as I strongly believe Ghandi when he said, "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

So we became a service group for high school students. That was my simple way of explaining it when people asked, "what is Corby's Castle all about?"

We started off with a small group of awesome kids. Just trying to find our way. What could we do to really make a difference in the lives of others...

We slowly but surely started figuring it out. It wasn't always as easy as one might think. Unfortunately, there are so many technicalities and red tape in this world, that it isn't always as simple to serve as it should be. 

Over the past five years we have:

*Raised funds to provide brain surgery for Shadrack, a little boy we sponsored in Kenya

*Worked with the kids who are residents at Boy's and Girl's Country 

*Worked with a Special Olympics volleyball team

*Helped rebuild a house destroyed by Katrina

*Sponsored a refugee family for the holidays

*Adopted a spot on the Buffalo Bayou that we kept clean and planted tons of trees 

*"Adopted" a refugee family from Liberia-  We actually got to find them an apartment before they arrived here, and fully furnish it. Then we got to meet them at the airport when they landed and take them to their new home. We taught them how basic things like running water and electricity work. We continued supporting them and helped them get acclimated to their new life. (Quite an eye opening experience for our high school kids...and for me!)

A group of our kids got to miss school to welcome the David family at the airport. Pretty cool.

We got both girls bikes, and taught them how to ride

Ruth, baby Ace, and Leomie. 

We did some AWESOME stuff.

But somewhere along the way, I began to lose focus and lost sight of our mission. I started feeling stressed out about the number of kids we were going to have at a meeting. I started feeling anxious about planning meetings that were going to be fun and exciting, so that the kids would like it and would want to come back. But fun games and numbers weren't the purpose of our group. Sure, it was nice to have lots of kids and lots of fun. And it was important to laugh and have fellowship, but those weren't supposed to feel like make or break deals. 

But we
did have some pretty rad times. Like at our "Oldschool" dance. 

I eventually got wrapped up in wanting Corby's Castle to be known. For us to be seen. Our numbers had grown and I wanted them to continue growing. But in reality none of that mattered. Last year I really started feeling overwhelmed, and I didn't want to admit it, but I felt like I was watching Corby's Castle crumble right before my eyes. 

I tried to come to terms with the thought of letting go. Friends and family encouraged me that, "you have done so many great doesn't have to be forever..." I pretended I agreed, but I wasn't ready to see the end. So I lost many nights of sleep agonizing over what would become of Corby's Castle, how could I sustain it? 

The answer fell into my lap not long after. The coach of the Special Olympics team we had been working with for a couple of years asked me if we would be interested in starting a Unified Team with some of their players. I really wasn't sure what it all meant, but being the "yes" girl that I am, I told her, "sure!" I went home and did my research and I cried at my computer. This was it. This was what we would be. The answer was clear. And the answer was perfect. 

Special Olympics Unified Teams are made up of players with and without intellectual disabilities. All on the same team. Practicing together as one team and competing together against other Unified teams. (Basically the most brilliant concept).

The team we have been working with for the past few years is called the Houston Hot Shots. Taking some of their players, and our amazing high school kids- we created the unified team: the Corby's Castle Towers.  And today, the Towers competed in Houston's Regional Special Olympics Volleyball Tournament as a Unified Team. 

The Towers

Hot Shots and Towers
Holt, Frank, and Patrick hanging out between games

My kids LOVE all of the players. Oh, and if this isn't part of our journey to an epic childhood, then I don't know what is.

Listening to coach during a timeout

According to Merriam-Webster, to unify is to make into a unit or a coherent whole: UNITE

Moving forward, I do miss what Corby's Castle once was, but more than that, I am excited about what's to come.

Go Towers!

Lots of Love!


Unknown said...

Hi Lisa!

I heard about your family from a friend who introduced me to your youtube videos. Ever since then, I have been following your blogs and am so glad I found them. Your story truly inspires me and really has me thinking about adopting (wayyy down the line). I recently volunteered at the Orange County Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome here in CA. As I was passing through the many booths and family tents pitched, I saw the Reeces Rainbow booth! I was completely reminded of your story and saw all the posters of children's pictures. I just want to say your story is continuing to inspire me as I work with kids with disabilities. I hope you keep posting more and more. Take care! This quote really sums it up- "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."


RAB said...

Tonight your children and this post regarding your brother's castle had me looking inward at my self and my own happiness. I too lost a brother, he took his life 10 years ago. What popped out was the quote you posted by Mahatma Ghandi. I have had a rough year and have been mostly homebound do to a back injury. I have been making and taking steps towards recovery, but needless to say I have had depression resulting from this situation. I always have HOPE and I know that I MUST get better. After I read through your blog I went to Facebook and posted this, I also wanted to say thank-you:

I have held this belief since I was 11 years old and wanted to join the Peace Corps. I did fulfill my childhood dream and joined the Peace Corps. I have worked with adults and children with varying abilities both cognitive and physical, I have assisted the elderly with their daily living, I have volunteered my time to drive people living with HIV/AIDS to doctor's appointments, I have befriended the homeless and have invited them into my home. I have never made a decent living doing what I am passionate about nor will I ever, but I have made friends along the way that are simply irreplaceable. This past year I have been down and out on my luck with my own physical abilities and hope that the near future will change this. Reading the words of Mahatma Gandhi have me starving to get back to what I love doing! I am holding my self accountable for my future happiness. I KNOW what I need to be doing with my life! First, I need to find the help to get myself better. I want to give my life to the service of others...I want to work in an orphanage for children with disabilities and have since I was a teenager. This I believe is my true calling! I have known this my entire life, but tonight watching the video of Ace and Archie again with tears of happiness, love, and a certain sadness it has become super clear to me. Accountability=Happiness.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi

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