We love when our donors are as creative as our students! Over the past year, some of our dedicated donors have given to YPT through their weddings. We are grateful for their generosity and their commitment to arts education, so we wanted to talk a bit more to them about their relationship with YPT as well as the big day! This month, we are talking to Eric and Jen Miller, who decided to ask for charitable donations as wedding gifts.
• First, congratulations! Can you tell us a little about your wedding? Where was it held? What was one memorable moment from the day?
Our wedding was scheduled to be held at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, MD on Sunday, July 1, 2012. We wanted it to be a fun weekend away for friends and family, so we picked a place where we could hang out at the pool, golf and really just enjoy having the families in town. Little did we know, we were in for quite a surprise that would make our wedding incredibly memorable! That Friday night, the Derecho rolled through the DC/MD area—so as the bridal party was celebrating at the hotel bar that night, the storm hit and knocked out all the power in the hotel and surrounding area. Suddenly, we were faced with guests staying in a hotel without air conditioning and the possibility of having a wedding without power! Luckily, the Turf Valley staff was wonderful and our friends and family are wonderful, so we were able to move the entire event to a sister property (the Hayfields Country Club in Cockeysville, MD) about 40 minutes away. It was stressful and we were scrambling to notify all of our guests and vendors, but we managed to pull it off and ended up having the most beautiful wedding ceremony (in air conditioning!!) and an amazing reception (the dance floor was packed the whole time!).
• How did you two meet?
We actually met at a mutual friend’s wedding in 2006. The groom was a high school friend of Eric’s and Jen’s best friend from high school was the groom’s college roommate. Jen’s best friend, Howard, had the plan to introduce the two of us at the wedding, thinking that we’d hit it off. We went on a first date in D.C. shortly afterward, and to this day we both still say it was the best and longest first date either of us had ever been on. But the story doesn’t end there—Eric was moving to Chicago and we weren’t up for a long distance relationship, so that was that. We always stayed in touch and when Eric moved back to the D.C. area a few years later, we got together again to catch up. It was a lot of fun and reminded both of us of the spark that was there, but again, it was bad timing. In the end, third time’s a charm! When Eric sent Jen a message for her birthday in 2010, this time we were both single and in the right place to see where things would lead. As soon as we had that third first date, we both knew that our connection was real. And to bring the story full circle, our dear friend Howard, who set us up in the first place, got ordained this past summer and married us!
• You had such a creative giving idea — can you tell us how you decided to designate YPT to receive a donation in lieu of favors at your wedding?
We wanted everything about our wedding to be a reflection of us and what matters to us. Our wedding really and truly was a celebration of who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple. We’re both incredibly passionate people and we both know how important it is to love what you do. For me, it has been this love of teaching kids how to write well and find their voice. For Eric, he has always cared deeply about giving back to the community in some way. We’ve both been to so many weddings and over the years, I had seen a couple people choose to make a donation instead of giving out trinkets to their guests, so I immediately knew that was something we wanted to do as well. In looking for the right place, Eric suggested YPT. He had done some work with your organization and he knew that it also tapped into my passion as an English teacher who loves writing.
• What do you hope comes out this donation?
We hope that the donation helps support the work of giving young kids a voice and the creative outlet of writing—that kind of experience, especially kids seeing their words come to life on the stage, is life-changing and can give kids so much confidence in themselves. Writing is such an important life skill for any kind of future success. We love your core belief that every kid has a story worth telling and that’s something we hope our donation helps foster.
• How did you learn about YPT?
During the Summer of 2011, I (Eric) had a fellowship with Global Fund for Children. I was charged with engaging our grantees around the world in a conversation about what sustainability means to them as community-based organizations. I interviewed grantees from Africa to China to South America, but one of the best experiences was my interview with David Snider (former director of YPT), right here in DC. That is how I discovered this wonderful organization.
• What was your first impression of YPT?
YPT is an organization of passionate people who want to make a true difference in the lives of young people. I attended one of the performances where the playwrights wrote stories about slavery, and they were performed by actors on stage. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the plays and talent of the playwrights. I have no doubt that it is a life-changing experience for the young playwrights to see their work performed on stage.
• How would you describe YPT to someone who hasn’t heard of us?
Young Playwrights Theater transforms the lives of young people by providing them with a creative outlet to find their voice and artistic talent.
• What kinds of causes are you most passionate about?
We both love children, so organizations or causes that serve to support children and give them creative outlets really speak to us. We also both value our own education and feel that education is so important—we both come from a family of teachers, so causes that speak to that desire to teach or help others, those are organizations we’d want to be a part of.
• If you had a personal mission statement, what would it be?
We both want our time to be spent with people we love, doing things we love, supporting causes we love. We want our jobs to reflect a commitment to making society better for the future generations and we want our children to grow up understanding the importance of helping others.
• And we’ll end with something fun … what is your favorite summer activity?
Typically we’d probably say something about hanging out with friends and family at the pool or the beach, but this summer, I think we both enjoyed getting our house ready for Baby Miller, who we’ll be welcoming to our family this winter!