Story Submitted by Deb Kelley

In November 2013, after an inspiring magazine interview of the founder of Redefining Refuge, a woman creating Redefining Refuge, a home for rescued, trafficked women and children, I decided that I had to help her. Being involved in theatre, I chose to do a spoken word showcase called Life Amplified to help her fundraise…. two short months later. Understand, I had absolutely no experience, no money, no business plan, no performers, and only determination and the venue willing to donate the space. Lots of people were skeptical and gave excuses for why I should not do this.

But I was stubborn, raised to pay it forward, and that’s why I did it anyway.

I created a website, posted on social media, and waited for poets to volunteer.

And waited.

By the end of December, I was almost ready to give up, and then a miracle happened. Singers, dancers, poets, and even a mind-reader reached out. I had my lineup mere days before opening.

At the end of the one-time performance fundraiser, someone in the audience stood up and asked a simple question, “when’s the next one?”

Six years and fourteen showcases later, Life Amplified was recognized on Bay News 9’s Everyday Hero, Fox TV’s Hometown Hero, and nominated for activism in Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay multiple times. Life Amplified has highlighted organization platforms ranging from PTSD, military sexual trauma, bully prevention, sexual violence prevention, and veterans’ assistance. We’ve fundraised for a child-founded childhood cancer organization, an inclusive landmark coffee shop, and an animal clinic that lost its home to arson. In 2019, Mayor Castor opened our showcase for the LGBTQ+ charity, Project No Labels. In 2020, we took to Zoom to entertain during the pandemic.

Life Amplified is synonymous with showing kindness to help small, grassroots charities showcase their mission and fundraise with volunteer performers of all ages and talents from the Tampa Bay community. What was supposed to be a single show in January 2013 has birthed the phrase, “in the time it takes to make an excuse, you could be starting a movement.”

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