The Underfunded ECE System in California

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment’s report, “Breaking the silence on early child care and education costs: A values-based budget for children, parents, and teachers in California,” produced in collaboration with the Economic Policy Institute finds what we know all too well: “California’s child early care and education (ECE) system is underfunded, and California policymakers have not been willing to acknowledge the true cost of creating a comprehensive ECE system. Proposals for ECE reform have focused primarily on improving access and affordability for families but have ignored the elephant in the room: Early care and education is substantially “funded” through low teacher pay and inadequate supports for ECE teachers. In addition to being a serious injustice, lack of adequate financial and professional supports for ECE teachers compromises the consistency and quality of care children receive.”

Read the report and listen to KQED Forum’s discussion on the state of early care in California for both educators and parents.

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Connecting with Wu Yee Colleagues

Wu Yee Children’s Services staff gathered at San Francisco State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center last week for our annual all-staff retreat. With 250 employees spread across the city at 12 centers and 3 offices, it was a welcomed opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn about the great work of other departments, programs, and staff all working to achieve the agency’s mission.

CEO Monica Walters talked about the direction of the agency, highlighted the accomplishments of all departments, and recognized staff at five, ten, fifteen, and twenty+ year milestones. This year, the five year group was especially large due to the addition of six new centers in 2014, with many staff coming on board from the Head Start transition agency, Community Development Institute Head Start. 

Congratulations to our staff at the following milestone years of employment! 

Five years: Melissa Canada, Ruth Cativo-Figueroa, Marlene Cativo-Sosa, Venus Biying Chen, Emily Cheung, Claudia Contreras, Linh Dang, Donna Dizon, Shelley L. Ehret, Veronica Figueroa, Patricia Hamilton, Angela Hodgson, Nikki Ying Mei Huang, Joshua Jagerman, Kimberly A. Jones, Ann Kwai Fong Lee, Ruby Wai Chu Lee, Shelly Ting Ting Lei, Teresa Leung, BingYing Li, Jessica WM Li, Kathy Qiong Li, Marie XueYu Li, Nicole Jin Liu Li, Xue Yan Li, Yingshan Li, Xi Hua  Liao, Karen Liao Yu, Xiao Xia Lin, Yan Fei Lin, Yan Fen Liu, Ivy Qunzhu Mai, Saw MarLar, Carolina Molina, Rosa Montano, Velma Moore, Jimmy Ngo, Gloria C. Redenius, Annette Tapia, Ravelle Taylor, Huong Thai, Yan Tran, Crystal Hue Vuong, Hannah Wu, Sue Baoxian Xu, Lena Yu, YuYing Zhao, ShunYi Zheng

Ten years: Cheryl L. Horney, Kelly ShuZhen Ruan, Joyce Yee T. Young

Fifteen years: Lauren Chan, Lisa Min S. Lim

Twenty years plus: Karen Yan Lok Ho, Angel Lai Ching Kwok, Amy Mu Yan Li, Cindy Xiao Hong Li, Linda Lim, David C. Lo, Sara Jung Yee Ng, Louise P. Yan

This year we had a special recognition: Lok Yuen's center manager, Linda Lim, is retiring after 24 years at Wu Yee. She has nurtured a full generation of children grow up, and we are grateful for her decades of service supporting children and families, and mentoring staff. Thank you for your dedication, Linda, we hope you enjoy your well-deserved retirement! We are having a retirement party for Linda in early August, so if you have any photos or memories you would like to share, please send to communications@wuyee.org.

We are currently looking for educators and staff to join Wu Yee’s team! To see the current list of open positions in our Child Development, Provider Services, Family Services, or Administrative teams, please visit www.wuyee.org/careers


Excellence in Teaching Awards

We are so proud of the two Wu Yee educators who were honored with 2019 Excellence in Teaching awards by First 5 SF: Kirkwood Preschool Lead Teacher Rhonda Alexander and Family Child Care educator Delia Suarez. The 6th annual awards celebration recognizes educators for their outstanding contributions in the field of Early Childhood Education.

Born and raised in the Hunters Point neighborhood, Rhonda Alexander has worked at Wu Yee’s Kirkwood center since 2015, and is committed to giving back to her community and building strong relationships with her children and their families. 

“Once children see that you have a strong relationship with their mom and their dad, their grandparents, they feel like ‘This is Teacher Rhonda, we can go talk to her, we can be ourselves in front of her. You know, we can come to school and just be ourselves and have fun and learn.’"

The Excellence in Teaching awards honor early educators in family child care homes as well as in centers; FCC educators provide nearly one quarter of the licensed child care in San Francisco. Since 2000 Delia Suarez has provided a safe and welcoming environment for children and families at her home in the Bayview neighborhood, Delia’s Little Angels.

Nancy Huerta, Wu Yee’s Family Child Care Quality Network (FCCQN) Manager who supports and collaborates with Delia says, “When Delia interacts with the children, you just see how the children’s faces light up. She’s able to take time out for each and every one of them and make them feel special.”

Says Delia, “I love that my children can come and enjoy a beautiful backyard, a wide open space, and above all I enjoy teaching them to love nature. The thing I wish for my children is to watch them graduate from college. And when they see me say, “Oh, I studied there!”

Congratulations Teacher Rhonda and Delia! 

We are currently looking for educators to join Wu Yee’s team! If you or someone you know might be a good match, and want to work with stellar educators like Rhonda and Delia, please visit www.wuyee.org/careers

Photos from First 5 SF’s 6th Annual Excellence in Teaching award ceremony:

A Day of Family Fun!

Saturday, June 8, 2019 brought a sunny day of family fun to the Bayview Opera House for International Children’s Day Family Jamboree #FamJam19, co-hosted by Wu Yee and Tandem, Partners in Early Learning.

Children, their families and caretakers, and community members participated in activities which included mask making, face painting, a pop-up playground, Zumba, kids yoga, make your own slime station, pedal your own smoothie station, and a reptile petting zoo. Thanks to Lion Dance ME for the Chinese lion dance and Fely Productions for an African drumming and storytelling workshop. Thanks to our community partners: NEMS, WIC, CYCSF, CALWORKS HSA, 529 Scholarshare, Kaiser Permanente, SF Recreation and Park, Black to the Future, Music in Schools Today, Tree Frog Treks, SFPL Bayview Branch, and Good Samaritan Family Resource Center for bringing their resources to families.

An enormous THANK YOU to all of those that provided help in planning, supporting and bringing great energy to Wu Yee's and Tandem’s International Children's Day Family Jamboree!

Visitacion Valley Family Day

Visitacion Valley neighbors gathered at Herz Playground for the 21st annual Visitacion Valley Family Day on Saturday, May 18th. Family Day included a parade, carnival rides, live music, dance performances and public art. Detailed plans and renderings of the planned Sunnydale-Velasco HOPE SF public housing site were made available so neighbors could view and comment.

Wu Yee Children’s Services will be part of San Francisco’s largest planned public housing development. Our New Generations Child Development Center will be relocated to the Sunnydale-Velasco HOPE SF public housing site.

Thanks for the fun time, and see you next year at Visitacion Valley Family Day!

Love, Risk, Joy, Engagement, and Reflection

Love, risk, joy, engagement, and reflection are the guiding principles of Anji Play, an early-learning philosophy and educational approach developed in Anji County, Zhejiang Province, China. Anji Play, developed 16 years ago by educator Cheng Xueqin, is in the 130 public kindergartens in Anji County. The Anji Play educational approach serves more than 14,000 children ages 3 to 6 in China.  Anji Play is in pilot programs at community college lab schools, private not-for-profit sites, public libraries, and community programs in the United States and globally, including at two of Wu Yee’s centers.

Mark Tao, Chief Financial Officer, Joyce Young, Regional Manager and Jenny Yu, Regional Manager with Cheng Xueqin, Founder of Anji Play and Director of Anji Childhood Education Research Center

Mark Tao, Chief Financial Officer, Joyce Young, Regional Manager and Jenny Yu, Regional Manager with Cheng Xueqin, Founder of Anji Play and Director of Anji Childhood Education Research Center

In Anji Play, children lead their own play and self-expression. They chose what, where, and with whom to play. Self-determination in play, discovery, learning, the time and freedom to express complex intentions in play shows Anji Play is “True Play”. When children engage in “True Play,” they are realizing specific intentions. Given space, freedom, materials and time, these play intentions manifest themselves in high degrees of complexity. Children solve conflicts, remove danger, and create order because it makes their play more fun. They will seek to understand what they are doing and they will ask for help if they need it.

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Minimally-structured, open-ended environments allow children to explore, imagine, and create. In Anji Play, environments are designed to maximize opportunities for imagination, inquiry, and contact with natural elements. The principles of Anji Play are present in indoor and outdoor environments. The materials and environments allow for a degree of possibility and complexity in play through minimal structure and open-endedness. The environment allows for children to organize and manage materials, move freely, question, describe, express, and document their experiences and observations and see these expressions and descriptions presented in a way that is accessible and prominent in the classroom and school.

“Ms. Cheng is one of the most amazing people I've met who truly understands children. She attended the entire conference and accompanied us on every school tour. You can tell that she is hands-on, unpretentious, and works hard to ensure every child is respected, loved, and experiences joy through true play.” —Jenny Yu, Regional Manager

Observation, reflection, and technology play crucial roles in the design and implementation of Anji Play. Anji educators and families are trained observers and researchers of play. Every day, educators record the play that takes place at school with their smartphones. These photos and videos are then reviewed and reflected on in the classroom. This culminates in a children-led discussion of their experiences, insights, and discoveries as a group.

Children reflect on and discuss True Play in Anji County, China

Children reflect on and discuss True Play in Anji County, China

Four Wu Yee staff members were invited by Ms. Cheng and Jesse Coffino, Director of Translation and Interpretation, to attend the First International True Play Conference: Global Conversations on the Future of Early Learning. Held in Anji County, the conference brought Chinese and global experts and Anji Play together to share their work, learn from one another, and consider the implications of True Play for the future of early learning. Attendees visited public early education programs in Anji County and learned directly from the children, teachers, families, and administrators who have woked together in creating a model for global educational change.

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Wu Yee’s Generations Child Development Center in North Beach and New Generation Child Development Center in Visitacion Valley were both honored with awards for being an Anji Play Pilot site and Wu Yee Children’s Services was honored for being among the first global Anji Play Program Administration Partners. These Wu Yee sites are the first sites in San Francisco to implement the Anji Play educational approach.

Merced Rocha, Infant and Toddler Lead Teacher at New Generations Child Development Center presents at True Play Conference 2019

Merced Rocha, Infant and Toddler Lead Teacher at New Generations Child Development Center presents at True Play Conference 2019

Merced Rocha, Lead Teacher at New Generation Child Development Center, presented at the True Play Conference on Implementing Anji Play in Early Head Start Toddler Classroom.  She has been working with an Anji Play coach for the past year to learn how to observe children without interfering in their play. In her presentation, she said, “Children are natural explorers, engineers, mathematicians, and designers; they just need the opportunity to explore their abilities with hands-on play.”

Thank you, Ms. Cheng and the administrators at Anji Play for this amazing opportunity to learn and explore this fascinating philosophy and educational approach!

We LOVE volunteers!

A huge thank you to all our wonderful volunteers! We are so grateful for your time and involvement in our community. Wu Yee Children’s Services has two more volunteer opportunities on the horizon. Next Saturday, 5/25 and Sunday 5/26, Wu Yee is participating in Carnaval San Francisco. On Saturday, 6/8 Wu Yee hosting International Children’s Day Family Jamboree. We are looking for people to volunteer with Wu Yee at both events. Perks include a t-shirt and free lunch.

How to volunteer with Wu Yee at Carnaval:

This year Wu Yee’s is supporting SFMTA’s Play Streets, at Carnaval. Play Streets is a program that empowers San Francisco residents to transform their block into an accessible, car-free open space on a regular basis for children, seniors, and neighbors to enjoy. At Carnaval, Wu Yee is looking for volunteers to help out with family-friendly activities, set-up, and clean-up. Look forward to a day filled with music, dancing and fun!

How to volunteer with Wu Yee at

International Children’s Day Family Jamboree:

Join Wu Yee Children's Services and Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, together with 106 KMEL and community partners at the 3rd annual International Children's Day Family Jamboree for children and their families! We are looking for volunteers to help with set-up, clean-up, registration, and supervising and facilitating activities. Expect a day filled with creativity, families, and using one’s imagination!


Honoring our Teachers

This week, Wu Yee Children’s Services is celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6 - 10th).  We honor all the teachers at Wu Yee for changing the lives of hundreds of children every day. Their hard work and creativity generate a positive impact extending far beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Early care and education are critical - 90% of a child's brain develops by age 5. At birth, the average baby's brain is about a quarter of the size of the average adult brain. Incredibly, it doubles in size in the first year. A  child’s brain keeps growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% – nearly full grown – by age 5. Teachers play a critical role in our children’s lives, inspiring a lifelong love of learning and discovery, and making a difference in their well-being and long-term success.

Click through to see celebrations for and recognition of the teachers at Wu Yee’s Little Sprouts Chinatown Infant Center and Bayview, Cadillac, Generations, and Westside Child Development Centers.    

We are extremely thankful to all the teachers at Wu Yee for lifting up our littlest ones and showing them a world of diversity, curiosity, and play.  YOU make Wu Yee great!



Chinatown Play Date!

The Chinatown Family Resource Centers (FRCs) Collaborative, APA Family Support Services, Gum Moon Women’s Residence/Asian Women’s Resource Center, and Wu Yee Children’s Services’ Joy Lok Family Resource Center, held their annual Chinatown Play Date at the Betty Ong Recreation Center in Chinatown.

Families and caretakers joined children for parachute play, story time, arts and crafts, an obstacle course, songs, games, and bubble play. All were treated to lunch and a gift.

The Chinatown FRC Collaborative is sponsored by First 5 SF. The collective meets quarterly to talk about community needs, discuss parenting workshop calendars and conduct joint community events such as the Chinatown Play Date

This year, the Chinatown Play Date was held in honor of the Month of the Young Child (April) when early learning, young children, and their teachers, caretakers and families are celebrated. Thank you to all families, children, and caretakers who participated!

Wu Yee Wellness

Wu Yee Children’s Services held a training event for teachers and managers from centers in Chinatown, North Beach, and the Outer Mission/Ingelside Neighborhoods that focused on staff wellness. The wellness activity reflected on staff’s everyday activities that support Wu Yee’s mission.

Held at the Google Community Space, teachers and managers attended workshops by First 5 of San Francisco, Wu Yee’s Education Team, and painted ceramic mugs as a wellness activity.

First 5’s workshop focused on the joy of literacy. Teachers read preschool and toddler age appropriate books and discussed the culturally appropriate content. Next, Shelly Ehret and Suellen Liang of Wu Yee’s Education Team, led a DRPD (Desired Results Developmental Profile) training. DRPD is an early assessment tool developed by the California Department of Education for young children and their families to be used to inform instruction and program development.

Jenny Yu, Regional Manger, worked with Color Me Mine of Daly City to facilitate the ceramic mug painting wellness activity. The teachers and managers noted similarities to facilitating activities in the classroom, saying they now understand how it feels when they ask children to clean up and they say they are "not done" painting yet.

Additionally, Color Me Mine of Daly City is donating 20% of the profits on Friday, April 19th from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm. In order for Wu Yee to get a donation, you must show the flyer below at the door.

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Wu Yee Walks Around the Block

On Friday, April 12th, Wu Yee children, parents, teachers, and staff, joined California State Senator Scott Wiener, California State Assemblymember Phil Ting, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, and countess other advocates for Early Care and Education (ECE) to rally for an increase in state-wide ECE funding.

The rally, held in front of the California State Building in San Francisco, asked state leaders to move forward toward fully funding the true cost of quality care in ECE programs from birth to preschool, and across child care centers and family child care homes. The rally, and following Walk Around the Block, highlighted Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration spotlighting early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities.

In a press release by Early Care Educators of San Francisco (ECESF), Governor Newsom’s proposed investment of $500 million for ECE was questioned if it was enough to support the priorities of equity, quality and affordability for all California’s children. “With a long history of devastatingly low investments,” said CEO Monica Walters, “this has to to be first step in several years of meaningful investment in our state’s youngest learners; paving the way for their future success as students, and ultimately as member of our civil society and workforce.”

The rally concluded with children, parents, teachers , staff, and advocates walking around the block to show solidarity with ECE educators and staff and demonstrate support for an increase in state-wide ECE funding.

Notes on a Life of Service

Michelle Chen Kuo and Christopher Kuo of Two Piano Journey practicing piano.

Michelle Chen Kuo and Christopher Kuo of Two Piano Journey practicing piano.

Christopher Kuo and his mother, Michelle Chen Kuo, are Two Piano Journey, a piano duo on a mission to make the world a better place. Chris recently joined Wu Yee Children’s Services’ Board of Directors and we are so lucky to gain his fundraising and organizing expertise. Two Piano Journey is hosting a benefit recital at The Green Room at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center on April 13th at 7:00 pm. Purchase tickets here.

I was able to ask Chris and Michelle some questions about growing up in a musical family, having strong role models, and how their lives have been shaped by those factors.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

Christopher Kuo

Christopher Kuo

Answered by Christopher Kuo:

Since you have been on this "Two Piano Journey” for approximately three years, performing with your mom and helping organizations, what have you learned about what makes an organization successful and thrive?  

Every organization that has succeeded has forged its own path. The common threads we've identified are that the organizations that do scale add an unbelievable amount of value to their communities with the resources they have, are growth minded, and filled with passionate employees and volunteers who care deeply about the cause they serve every day. I was drawn to Wu Yee for these exact reasons. 

Now that you have gotten to know Wu Yee better and become our newest Board Member, how has your perspective changed? What is your main focus for Wu Yee? 

To me, serving on Wu Yee's board has been an immense opportunity for me to learn the inner workings of a large nonprofit organization serving thousands of families. The decisions being made in the boardroom impact families working towards the best possible future for their children. I am honored to share in that responsibility. My main focus for Wu Yee is the Wu Yee Ambassadors. Our Board Members have developed a volunteer program that has potential for long lasting impact for the families Wu Yee serves. This program will do much to support our children while shining a spotlight on Wu Yee within the diverse, corporate community in the Bay Area.

How did growing up in a musical family with strong role models influence you? 

I am grateful to my parents for my upbringing. There is a certain joy that is unlike any other to be woken up in the mornings by beautiful music. I'd hear my mom playing the piano and my dad rehearsing on his trumpet. 

Ever since I was a young boy, my parents taught me the value of serving my community. We performed my first benefit concert when I was in elementary school and every year after that. In the end, I am simply living a life filled with music and service and it hasn't changed since my childhood. 

Do you have a favorite memory growing up?  What other activities did your family participate in?  

I remember so vividly the first time I touched a piano. My mom played a duet with me as I played the middle C for four whole notes. I was immediately enraptured. 20+ years later, playing the piano with my mom is one greatest joys of my life. 

We love to travel - we have shared so many memories together. Our favorite destination to date is Hawaii - nothing beats that perfect sunny weather!

Michelle Chen Kuo

Michelle Chen Kuo

Answered by Michelle Chen Kuo:

In working with many outstanding partner organizations, what are some similarities you have noticed? What qualities make an institution successful?

It's been such a joy to tour with my son for the last three years! Whenever we meet with the team members of our most successful partners, we feel their passion. That passion is deeply woven through the fabric and culture of the organization - everyone cares so much about supporting their community, everyone is willing to work so hard.  This journey has made me believe in miracles. Our biggest joy is watching our partner organizations partner along with us. We've seen first hand what a small group of extremely passionate, talented, and hard working people can do to change the world. Our partners inspire us, and we are grateful to be a part of their journey. 

How do you think your family was unique from others, as your children grew up? 

We definitely are a musical family! We all grew up around instruments as a way of life, and we wanted to share the joy of music with our children. Teaching my sons piano was always one of my happiest memories.

What were your hopes for your children growing up?  

Believe it or not, I never raised my children to be musicians. I wanted to shield them from the hardship that comes with a career in music. I think like every parent, I wanted my children to be happy, successful, and smiling. t makes me happy to watch them grow into the adults they are. 

As a parent, how do you relate to our Wu Yee families?  What inspires you about Wu Yee?

All parents dream and sacrifice so that their children to have endless opportunities to have a happy life. What inspires me about Wu Yee is that the organization works to provide immigrant families the opportunity to make that dream come true. My husband and I came to this country with empty pockets, and through music, we were able to find our footing and build our careers. We were lucky - it isn't a straightforward journey for everyone, and I feel completely privileged to be able to support this organization through our concert. 

Two Piano Journey: A Benefit Recital is in The Green Room at the
San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center on
April 13, 2019 at 7:00 pm

When Women Lead

The Wu Yee Ambassadors hosted a panel discussion in honor of Women’s History Month at Holy Craft Brewery Taproom. The event, titled When Women Lead, featured the following panelists:

  • Rachel Williams, CEO and Co-Founder, Miller Harper Williams

  • Tina Cheung, Program Manager, Organizational Transformation, AnitaB.org

  • Frances Lee, Development and Communications Manager, Girls on the Run 

  • Moderated by Christine Bediones, Ambassador Board Chair, Wu Yee Children's Services 

A lively discussion ensued calling attention to cultural inclusivity, dismantling stereotypes and unconscious bias. The panelists and moderator shared their formative experiences of diversity, and described how those experiences shaped their vision of community and caused them to become leaders in their own fields.

After the panel, the moderator and panelists met with attendees in small groups to further continue the discussion and share perspectives.

Special thanks to Rachel, Tina, Frances and Christine for speaking, and to Holy Craft Brewery Taproom.

Pop-Up Playground!

Wu Yee Children’s Services held its Second Annual Pop-up Playground at its Southeast Child Development Center. This year, the event included onsite Head Start applications with the Enrollment team present to answer any questions, provide translation in Chinese or Spanish, and help with applications. Christopher Lew, ERSEA Attendance Specialist, articulated the importance of reaching out to the Southeast region, “Having childcare available for our under served communities across San Francisco, such as Southeast, gives the children and families the chances they need to improve their futures.”

As in previous years, the Pop-Up Playground was a volunteer opportunity for University of Southern California's (USC) Bay Area Asian Pacific Alumni Association for the USC Alumni Day of SCervice, an annual, international volunteer day.

Children were given free-range to use their imaginations, and get creative with cardboard boxes, paint, pool noodles, art supplies and other items as families and volunteers took a back seat to the children’s exploration. A pop-up playground is designed to encourage children to take calculated risks in order to learn resilience and problem-solving skills. The kids were free to build their own structures, tear them down, and play without many boundaries. Families, Wu Yee staff, and volunteers were present to oversee and facilitate the play without interfering.

Many thanks to our community partners, B*Magic, Five Keys Schools and Programs, San Francisco Public Utilities Comission, San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education, City College of San Francisco, Renaissance Parents of Success, Young Community Developers, Inc. - Black to the Future, The City and County of San Francisco, and Hunters Point Family.

Wellness at Wu Yee

Wu Yee’s teachers and managers from centers in the Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley Neighborhoods participated in a scavenger hunt as part of their wellness retreat.

Wu Yee Children’s Services held a training event for teachers and managers from centers in the Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley Neighborhoods, that focused on staff wellness.

Held at the Southeast Community Facility, the training included a scavenger hunt focused on team building and self-reflection on staff’s everyday activities that support Wu Yee’s mission.

The event began with a training on early childhood literacy and phonic awareness with a presenter from First 5. Next, teachers and mangers participated in a DRPD (Desired Results Developmental Profile) training with Education Manger, Shelly Ehret. DRPD is an early assessment tool developed by the California Department of Education for young children and their families to be used to inform instruction and program development. After the scavenger hunt, Lakeshore Learning presented materials on literacy and each teacher received a thank you bag. The event concluded with a raffle of classroom supplies.

"Staff Wellness is one of the key aspects of a successful program,” said regional manager, Joyce Young. “It's wonderful to get all the teachers and managers together to focus on their own wellness while having fun with each other.”