Adapting on the fly

For my last story, I reported on the WACKY Art Center that just opened on Hickman Avenue in Columbia. Erica Leach, the center’s owner, encourages parents to come in with their kids to make crafts together. Leach organizes all the projects, but the kids can also have a say in what crafts they want to make. Also, all the materials used are either donated or recycled.

Throughout the first two weeks of business, 15 kids ages 2-12 have visited the WACKY Center. WACKY stands for Walk-in Activity Center 4 Kids Yippee!

So heading into this story, I wanted to focus on one of these kids and the parent they were with. I was hoping that the center would provide them with activities that were impossible to accomplish at home.

I went to shoot the story on Friday and get an interview with Leach and see if there were any kids there. Well, there weren’t. But Leach assured me that if I came back the next day on Saturday, kids were bound to show up, as that is usually the center’s most crowded day.

I went the next day while the center is open and just sort of wait around, hoping kids will visit. Well sure enough, as the clock struck three in the afternoon, the beginning time of the last session, I started to panic. Maybe I can thank the Roots, Blues, n’ Barbecue festival in Columbia for the lack of kids.

But I was forced to think on my feet. Based on my interview with Leach and some of the background information I found before that, I learned that this was Leach’s dream come true. She had saved up for four years, bought an old church last February and gutted it out.

Her entire family helped with the project, including her husband and two sons, Chris, 12, and Devon, 10. I slowly realized (but still quickly enough to get the story shot that day) that this could potentially be a better story – to focus on an ordinary woman who accomplishes her dream. Ultimately, I like the story that I got, and I think it turned out better than what I would have gotten had I interviewed a kid and a parent.

The important lesson I learned was not to get too attached to one story idea. Regardless of whether things work out with the original idea, there could be a better story within it all if you listen intently to the interviews and do the appropriate research.

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