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The Authentic Expression Project

By first responders, for first responders. 

Our most ambitious project yet; providing an anonymous space for first responders and their loved ones to tell their stories. 

Being a First Responder, to us, is like being a lighthouse.

To be seen and not heard. Only a flash of light in the darkest of nights.

Brutally exposed to the elements

Alone in an overwhelming reality of helper. Not helped.

Most First Responders can’t. Or won’t tell anyone the details. 

The pieces. The sounds. The way colors and textures combine. 

They don’t talk about the smells. That feeling. What they sometimes see when they close their eyes. 

To be the unknowing keeper of society's trauma is something that can’t be done in solitude.

-Poem by Brendan McCarthy & Edmund Dalo

How it works

Join us in extinguishing PTSD in the first responder community.


Physically write your story. We want to know your experiences. Your fears, your situation, your symptoms. There are no rules; note as little, much, abstract, or detailed as you see fit. Don’t be afraid to get creative. We encourage you to end your work with the date, mailing state, job title, and years on the job. Then, anonymously mail your work to:

PO Box 118
Barrington, RI 02806

AAFRF will process mailings and use them to create original works of art to be displayed at our fundraisers, community events, studio, galleries, and, hopefully, one day, museums.

Help dissolve the stigma by telling your story.

To the Participant

We encourage you to get creative! Some examples include:

-Attempting to rhyme words.

-Writing in different color inks or fonts.

-Writing on colored pieces of paper.

-Experimenting with different poetic forms, like the haiku! 

-Adding doodles or drawings to your work.

Please be mindful that writing about difficult topics can cause distress and exacerbate mental health symptoms. The Authentic Expression Project is not a treatment or in any way a substitute for therapy. Please visit our resources page and review our disclaimer for more information on finding help. 

The 2023 Authentic Expression Project

An interactive work of art
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