Photograph by Kevin Murray

I attended the original, First Fire, in 1994.  I’m still not sure what convinced me to sit in the freezing cold and watch fire burn on a Providence river – especially on that particular night!  In the fall of 2007, I was trained by WaterFire volunteer, Kathleen Sprague, and volunteered on-shore setting up the sponsor reception area in RISD Market Square.  By the end of the evening, I was intrigued by the ingenuity and creativity of this simultaneously simple and complex feat.  It occurred seamlessly, transforming Providence into an ever-changing stage and brought together a community of diverse individuals who each experienced the “magic” that is WaterFire in their own way.

I’ve been fortunate to hold a variety of volunteer roles:  Special Ops – escorting torch bearers during the Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope; as an Ambassador near the Union Plaza (former) Wall of Hope; and for several years as a FireBall silent / live auction “docent”.  In 2008 I found my niche as a volunteer with the WaterFire Brazier Society.  This unique experience allows me, as part of a team, to provide an evening of hospitality to our sponsors, their guests, and individual contributors as a Thank You for their financial support.

It also offers me the opportunity to field general WaterFire questions from the many visitors who pass by the Brazier Society reception area.  On one particular WaterFire evening I spoke at great length with a gentleman who originally came to express his displeasure with what he believed was a misuse of taxpayer money to fund WaterFire.  Because he was open to having a dialogue, I was able to provide him with the facts about WaterFire as a non-profit, the positive impact it provides to the city of Providence, and the vast community of artists and businesses (e.g., Gather Glass, TEN31, and La Gondola) that have grown as a result of WaterFire.  At the end of our discussion, he shared with me that his opinion of WaterFire had been positively changed and he made a cash donation!

WaterFire establishes a framework to connect Rhode Island with the world.  It generates a mechanism through which we can showcase our talents and positively contribute to our community in service as volunteers.  We become part of the fabric that transcends our own experiences and dares us to produce art for all.

In the words of Italian singer / songwriter, Andrea Bocelli – Vivere! (Dare to Live)

Try looking at tomorrow, not yesterday
And all the things you left behind
All those tender words you did not say
The gentle touch you couldn’t find
In these days of nameless faces
There’s no one truth, but only pieces
My life is all I have to give
Dare to live until the very last
Dare to live, forget about the past
Dare to live, giving something of yourself to others

Andrea Bocelli

– Jeanine Palumbo

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