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For the past four years, my daughter Brooklyn and I have enjoyed completing the Passport Lincoln program during the summers. Since I mentor highly gifted students at Irving Middle School, I cherish this Daddy / Daughter time.

We were a bit bummed this year when we made our annual trip to the visitors’ center in Lincoln Station and learned that the Passport Lincoln program had been replaced with a craft brewery tour/pamphlet. Now we have nothing against local breweries. In fact, I’m employed by Blue Blood Brewing Company to give private tours of Lincoln’s Legendary Robber’s Cave, and Brooklyn has served as my handy sidekick during my summer tours.

As much as she likes adventure, the new Craft Beer program wasn’t something I could do with her, so we decided to create out own summer project.

Last year, Brooklyn would frequently call out, “Light bulb!” from her car seat, and this year it turned into, “Designed Heart!” So we decided to traverse the city and find all 83 six-foot-tall fiberglass hearts publicly displayed to honor Nebraska’s 150th Anniversary.

Our plan was to capture a photo of Brooklyn next to each heart, and she would create a scrapbook with her photos. Brooklyn surprised me when she exclaimed, “I know what I want to call it: A Heart-filled Summer”. “Do you mean A Heartfelt Summer?” I asked. She meant heart-filled, so that’s what she’s titling the scrapbook.

She latched on to the idea with exuberance and enthusiasm evident in her photos, and in just three days we had found and photographed every single heart… except one! Several times we diligently perused the stated location of the heart named “Fallen” but to no avail. So I decided to call Project Director Liz Shea-McCoy to make sure we had the location correct.

She explained that the heart would be there soon, but in the process of talking with Liz, she caught wind of Brooklyn’s and my project and it captured her interest. She recommended bringing Brooklyn to Haymarket Park when all of the hearts would be on display together. “Great! When is that?” I asked. “October 5th” Liz responded.

Coincidentally, that just so happens to be Brooklyn’s birthday. The perfect opportunity for Brooklyn to meet Liz and show her the finished summer project: The Heart Filled Summer scrapbook.

Not only did this venture provide Brooklyn and I the opportunity to create a memorable project together, it gave us the chance to spend that precious time with each other before she begins kindergarten - she’s pumped to become a Lakeview Elementary School Seagull this August. In addition to practicing her writing (she wrote the title of all 83 hearts in her scrapbook) Brooklyn learned about the city of Lincoln by connecting the different hearts with the locations in which they’re displayed.

She has made many connections to landmarks in her young life as well. She understands that Immaculate Heartland sits in front of one of her favorite buildings in Lincoln: St. Mary’s Church, which we passed daily on the way to her preschool: Trinity at 16th and A streets. She remembers that one of her favorite hearts, Melting H’Art, sits in front of the Quilt Study Museum which she has visited numerous times for the Passport Program, and she probably sees Serengeti of Omaha the most as she and I spend a ton of time reading, playing Mancala and chess at Indigo Bridge Bookstore in the Haymarket.

The Nebraska By Heart program also created a million questions for Brooklyn. She always wanted me to explain the artwork on the hearts. For a time, her favorite was Star Crossed Lovers at 16th and R streets. She asked me, “What are star-crossed lovers, Daddy?” I told her it was from Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." All of the sudden, she wanted to know who Shakespeare was! I went out on a limb and read to her, in Elizabethan English, some of scene two from "Romeo and Juliet" one night for her bedtime story. When I caught her flipping through my massive Shakespeare anthology at home, complete with shiny gold pages, I decided she needed her own book.

While we were celebrating the Fourth of July in Seward, my wife bought Brooklyn the kids’ version of Shakespeare plays from one of the vendors. It was situations like this that I knew how much Brookie was obtaining from the project.

We have East Campus’s Internal Connection heart to thank for providing Brooklyn a visual for her to understand that a human heart isn’t actually shaped like a heart, and now every time she seeks a sprocket, she thinks of a line she found painted on the heart Together: Ode to Gear heads. Who knows how many connections have been made thanks to this wonderful project?

I do know that Brooklyn and I will have our memories, our newfound citywide connections, and her scrapbook forever.

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