A Message from Sharon on the start of Prafi

Out of Bad Comes Good” were the words a friend would tell me during a dark, difficult time. Eventually, I saw the truth in those words; the good emerged in ways I never imagined. Our challenges in starting a family gave insight into families created in different ways. Through these experiences the concept for Prafi was born.

The namesake of our bunnies, Sophocles and Snowphia were our first characters along with their parents Squirrel Mama and Squirrel Daddy. Initially, the focus was solely on adoption and foster care. As time went on, my teaching and parenting perspective began to change. The ideas behind Prafi began to evolve, too. That’s when the primary setting shifted from home to school. Sophocles was now in class with four other students from different family backgrounds and their teacher Miss Baa. Each character had specific learning, social and emotional qualities.

Along the way we met Shelley. She was working on a children’s story of her own. It had grown in a similar way as Prafi, out of the needs of her family and experiences. The timing was perfect, as our passion for Prafi could have turned into an arduous task otherwise. Frankie’s perspective came from being a parent. He was great at the technical end and adding humor, but I needed someone who instinctively understood what children needed in and out of the classroom. It was a natural fit to work with Shelley and Prafi progressed even more. We added another character, Bria, and further defined the traits and roles of each character. The initial stories were adjusted to accommodate our new changes.

Together we continue to plan and envision the many lessons and journeys our Prafi children will take as we create and discover resources that foster inclusion. Creating Prafi continues to be a blessing in our lives. It’s an instrumental part of our journey, leading us in new directions and discoveries. Join us as we build acceptance through understanding.

Why Prafi

Prafi imagines all children being able to accept themselves for who they are and where they come from, which in turn leads to them accepting others. At the heart of Prafi is the realization that we need to build this acceptance through understanding.

All too often children feel no one else is like them, has a family background like theirs or learns the same way they do.  Children can start to feel misunderstood or simply put, not accepted.  As we know, children are curious.  However some of their curiosities come across as hurtful or insensitive even though they might have been innocent in nature.  “Where’s your real dad?” “Why do you speak that way?” “What’s a stepsister?” More often than not, children are wondering or confused by situations they haven’t encountered.  

That’s where Prafi comes in.  We focus on building understanding through educating. Our stories explain family backgrounds and incorporate various learning, social and emotional needs and so much more.  We want to validate children, help them understand others and provide a proactive approach that sparks constructive conversations and provides positive support.  It’s our intention for Prafi’s stories and lessons to lead to acceptance for all.

Prafi’s Founders

Sharon Mazza and Frank Mazza

Sharon grew up at the shore in Point Pleasant, NJ and graduated Monmouth University with a B.S. in Education & Biology.

Sharon grew up at the shore in NJ and graduated college with a B.S. in Education & Biology. She took a semester to volunteer full-time with SCA (Student Conservation Association) at a National Wildlife Refuge in Northern California. After graduating she moved to CA and taught 1st and 3rd grade for three years. That’s where she received her CLAD (Cross-Cultural Language Acquisition) Certification. Sharon moved back to NJ and continued working in public education, mostly as a 2nd grade teacher. Writing didn’t come natural to Sharon; in fact she hated it and the red pen that marked-up her childhood papers. Telling stories was different; she had an instinct for storytelling from a young age, something she acquired from her mother. Sharon didn’t discover her passion for writing until later in life.

Frank was born and raised in NJ; the blueberry capital of the world.

After high school, he worked full time and attended night school. Frank graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems and began his career as a computer operator. A few years later, he transitioned into working as a computer programmer. Since then he has been working in the casino industry. Frankie loved puzzles as a child. In his youth, he began to take things apart to figure out how they worked. This led to taking nonworking computers and testing different parts to create a computer that worked. As an adult, Frankie has taught himself a lot about web design and various drawing programs.

Frankie and Sharon met in a bookstore. After dating a few months, Frankie proposed over a box of chocolates and they had a sweet wedding in Hershey, PA.

Their family grew a few years later with the adoption of their daughter. The family enjoys coming up with ideas for Prafi and other humorous stories, hanging out with Harley Quinn, their dog, and camping in their vintage Airstream. They are grateful for the work of Concerned Persons for Adoption support group and their annual adoption conference with Rutgers. Sharon and Frankie appreciate the wealth of information they were able to receive about the adoption process from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Shelley Lenhardt

Shelley grew up near the beach in New Jersey.  She spent many summers teaching gymnastics & swimming lessons which inspired her to go into the teaching field. After earning a degree in Elementary & Early Childhood Education, Shelley went on to teach preschool.

Trying to better serve her students, she went back to school and earned a Graduate Certificate to teach English as a Second Language. Shelley eventually moved up a few grade levels & is currently teaching English Language Learners & Language Arts to struggling students. 

An avid reader, Shelley enjoys books for relaxation, to increase knowledge & enhance her life.  When searching for a children’s book to help explain alcoholism/addiction was hard to find; a family friend suggested Shelley write her own. With the encouragement of many, including Sharon Mazza, Shelley self-published her story My Daddy’s Allergic to Wine to help others discuss a difficult topic with young children. 

As their friendship grew,  Sharon & her husband Frank shared their developing Prafi plans with Shelley.  Excited by the idea that she could help create something bigger than herself, Shelley started working on her own personal growth.  This, of course, included reading many business and motivational books.  

Shelley’s family inspires many of her ideas and stories.  Her perspective & experiences led to the creation of another core character that was incorporated into the original Prafi tales.  She is blessed to have the backing of her husband, 2 young daughters, 5 ducks & a dog along with 2 adult stepsons, a daughter in law, and a grandson.  Her family is grateful for the support they receive from friends & family especially those in the AA, Alanon & Alateen community.  Shelley is excited to go on this journey of helping educators, professionals, friends & family build Acceptance For All!