LWA Blog

A Disney-ABC executive’s Love without agenda

Lisa O'Brien-Wentzel
It was hot, loud and crowded at Cornerstone Festival in Illinois. Young artists lined the streets to play loud but purposeful and passionate music, hardcore stuff. A lot of black clothing, a lot of tatoos and piercings, a lot of life wanting to burst forth. I love young people. The LWA kids were painting on second run t-shirts the word “Stop Consuming..”, when we met “Mama Dawn” A rocker herself, she was in a band called Crumbacher as a young adult. Now a single mom of teens and a Senior Management executive at Disney-ABC in California using her musical talents. The kids that hover around her call her Mama Dawn, she appears to have 20 or so kids. In listening to her amazing story, we found that she got her name Mama Dawn by sharing her “free time”, her home, and her spare money with local kids who needed some family-ing, you might say. Sure, Mama was in the worship band at church and some of the kids went, some didnt. Sometimes young adults have a hard time finding a place in Churches where they belong. Maybe because they have issues and questions. Maybe because they have tattoos and piercings. Maybe because are hardcore. They are artsy and don’t sit still very well. They dont get up early. They wear hats inside. Regardless, walking a life of faith and purpose as Mama and her family do, is a day in, day out forever deal. Its about becoming whole and mature in every single moment. Its about heart, soul and mind. Its about who you are at home and times when “no one is looking”. We all have pink tongues and questions about life. Mama knows this with all her heart. So, she loves, accepts, listens, encourages. She models what it looks like to live with purpose and belief in God, and still be hardcore. She models a great picture of a whole, healthy and complete woman and follower of God as she believes, Jesus. We chatted at Cornerstone about our Shema House, the house where the 4 men lived. The following month she called and told us that she wanted to create more time in her life for her home and kids. She left ABC. She left prestige. She left a great paycheck and benefits. She left security. She left a two hour commute. She knew she must let go of one bar and momentarily be holding on to nothing before she could move on to the next. She took a risk to love. She gave herself full time to do life with the kids. Mama Dawn started her own business, Take Two Productions and freelanced while running her home full time. They named it “Open Arms”. The boys bedroom had bunk beds, enough for 15 or so boys. The girls room had a little less people and a lot more hair equipment. Her own high school kids helped manage the home; they have the same inner strength, wisdom, talent and love as their mom. I dont know what you think, but I think anyone who lives with 20 teens is … amazing + a saint+ super woman+ a visionary +deeply sacrificial+ nuts for a reason. The garage held a real live band, every night, every weekend. The home was always busy. How to manage garbage, chores, showers and eating suddenly become the big project. Pizza boxes and Taco Bell leftovers are a big part of life. Fortunately, learning to “love” in the basic home chores of life is an invaluable process and the first step towards to becoming a whole person. So, it works. Loud, busy, messy, connected, loving, accepting, supporting, fun and real. Many people think that once our kids get older, they don’t need much adult help. In fact they need just the right kind of help. Life coaching. How and why to go to school. How to fill out those forms. How to find a job. How to have a friend of the opposite sex. How to say no or yes. What to eat, what to drink, what to do with your free time. Learning about purpose in life, work balanced with fun. Learning who we are, not who the world tells us we should be. Learning who they are, no matter what they look like. Learning to use money well. What about faith, belief, church and the things adults tell us we should do? Where can they ask, where can they be silent and wonder, where can they be free to try “not believing” if they want. Where can they see lived out in front of them a good Way in the growing years? Above all, young adults need a safe place where they can try all this life stuff out, and fail, and be valued at the end of the day. This is Open Arms. ————————- With sadness I must tell you that you wont find the Open Arms home today, they lost that home. Although a connected family they do struggle without that central location. But with joy I tell that you will find Mama and her “kids” some now adults, dreaming and working towards a new home. The love and lessons they received they long to pass on.

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  • camsterrr

    this sort of love is inspiring! i hope i can love kids like mama dawn someday

  • dukie

    I still can’t refer to her as Mama Dawn, but she is a best friend for life, and the girl has many skills. Rock on!nndukie

  • Adel Meisenheimer

    That is my dream home and Dawn is my hero! I loved hosting teens in our home for several years through the ministry of Young Life. Good times.

  • Joeschmoe

    I think you are great!