Wyatt Kauth was 7 years old when his dad died in 2013. It was a soul-crushing blow for a young boy who idolized his father, Dennis Kauth, one of the artists of games, books, movies and conventions for “Dungeons and Dragons.”
Wyatt, now 14, and his mom, Dorothy McElroy, started a nonprofit in theMilwaukee area in Dennis Kauth’s honor to help Wyatt through the grieving process.
Today, Wyatt and other children who have lost loved ones are slaying “dragons of grief” as part of World Wide Dragon Shooting Day, an archery event he and his mother created that has featured more than 8,000 archers from 37 states and 67 countries raising money for grief-related charities and grieving families.
Mother and son Dorothy McElroy and Wyatt Kauth will share a story during the Storytellers Project show “New Beginnings” on Jan. 12. (Photo: Courtesy of Dorothy McElroy)
“Grief needs to be talked about and dealt with,” said McElroy, who, since her husband’s death, has become a certified grief support specialist and end-of-life doula. “We want to alleviate that elephant in the room or, in this case, a huge dragon.”
On Jan. 12, Wyatt and McElroy will share their story as part of the USA TODAY Storytellers Project show, “New Beginnings,” focused on new relationships, fresh starts, new ways of looking at life and more.
The mother and son will be joined by:
- Maggie Downs, 44, of Palm Springs;
- Amy Wilbourne, 52, of Milwaukee;
- Myung-Jin Juliet “M.J.” Kang of Venice, California;
- Abu Chowdhury of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Kang, who immigrated as a child from Seoul, South Korea, to Toronto, Canada, with her family, said the move filled her life with misunderstandings and difficulties. But certain adults helped her navigate these challenges.
Actress M.J. Kang will share a personal story for “New Beginnings,” a virtual storytelling event on Jan. 12 presented by the Storytellers Project (Photo: Courtesy of M.J. Kang)
“I hope people will learn how the power of positive adult figures can make a huge difference in a child’s life and, if it’s possible to engage in helping others, take that opportunity to do so.”
Her message is one of hope.
“I hope to convey the importance of persevering, being resilient and, even though things may be bad now, good will come. It always does.”
Kang said she agreed to tell a story because she believes in the power of storytelling.
“When we share our stories, we share ourselves. When we listen to someone’s else’s life, we gain so much more than a story. We are listening to someone’s heart,” she said.
Author Maggie Downs will share a true, personal story for the Storytellers Project’s “New Beginnings” show on Jan. 12. (Photo: Lance Gerber)
Downs, author of “Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime,” will share a story about traveling alone through Cairo at a pivotal moment in her life and the stranger who helped her navigate it with an extreme act of generosity.
“I hope my story stokes a curiosity for the world and a genuine interest in other people. It’s an invitation,” she said.
“And while my story takes place in Egypt, I want people to know you don’t have to travel far to have meaningful experiences. That comes from cultivating relationships with others, no matter where you are.”
Abu Chowdhury, speaking at The Advertisers Storytellers Project at The Acadiana Center for the Arts. Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)
Chowdhury’s story is about immigrating to the United States and moving to the South, where he embraced a new culture.
“I brought two names to Lafayette when I immigrated,” he said, “and got a gumbo of life and laughter in return.”
Wilbourne’s story starts with her quest for love.
“I searched online dating sites for years trying to find someone to have a relationship with,” she said. “After taking a different path, and overcoming a major obstacle, I finally found lasting love.”
The “New Beginnings” show kicks off the 2021 storytelling season. Twenty shows were livestreamed in 2020, a pivot from in-person shows in 20 cities across the country after the start of the pandemic.
The series attracts people from across the United States and features everyday people who are coached by USA TODAY Network journalists and professional storytelling experts.
The nights blend the authenticity of storytelling as an art form with the truthfulness, community-building and empowerment that great journalism is grounded in.
Learn more about the Storytellers Project and apply to tell a story at https://www.storytellersproject.com.
Need to know
- What: “New Beginnings”
- Where: The Storytellers Project’s Facebook Page, YouTube channel and website.
- When: Jan. 12, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
- More: Watch past virtual shows on YouTube and recorded in-person shows on the Storytellers Project’s website.
- Feb. 16: Love and Heartbreak
- March 2: I am Black
- March 16: I Made This: Stories About the Arts
- March 30: I am Indigenous
- April 20: Growing Up
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