Experiencing loss is a challenging time for people to process their thoughts and emotions. When failing to face grief head-on, there tends to be a disconnect within families. Thankfully, mother-daughter duo Quyionah Wingfield and 12-year-old Serenity Marie are helping to get families to reconnect and have fun while doing so.

Cool Moms Dance Too

The Atlanta natives launched Cool Moms Dance Too (CMDToo), a dance wellness class, in 2016. Following the tough loss of Wingfield’s husband and the father of her daughter, they discovered their way to cope and prioritize their overall health was through dancing together.

As their connection grew stronger, Wingfield and Serenity became inspired to bring other families along with them on their journey. The CMDToo founders have helped 8,000 families so far through their work. 

The dance class has partnered with the Atlanta Hawks, Kidz Bop, the National Alliance of Mental Health Georgia and more to provide underserved communities with access to tools for family mental and physical health.

“I don’t think that parents are intentionally disconnected,” Wingfield told AfroTech. “I don’t think they necessarily have the resources or know how to penetrate maintaining that connectivity.”

Gen Connect Game

Courtesy of Gen Connect

Although CMDToo was a hit with families, Wingfield and Serenity wanted to dig deeper into how to create a space for open communication between families to continue after their class sessions. Their answer was creating their mobile app Gen Connect Game — a family card game that builds connection and understanding between generations. The app serves as a fun way for parents and children to learn more about each other on a deeper level.

I have a lot of friends that are going through stuff kind of like what I went through with [my dad] passing away,” Serenity told AfroTech. “And their families aren’t really there for them. I think Cool Moms and the card game will help them a lot with connecting to their families. I told my friend about it and she and her mom play it.”

With the help of Carleton College’s Hack4Impact, a program of engineers that provide nonprofits with software, Wingfield and Serenity took what started as a brainstormed idea into an app that aims to tackle emotional isolation that comes with a loss in families for all generations.

They each played a role in shaping Gen Connect’s design and user experience. Plus, they came up with in-depth questions to be asked during the game that would truly create a connection.

“I like getting asked questions and [knew] there needed to be good questions,” Serenity told us. “It can’t just be questions like ‘What’s your favorite color?’ — boring questions. You need to go a little deeper and further than that so that when other people are playing it they can actually connect.”

While Serenity especially played a part not only with the questions component of the game but the overall experience, Wingfield on the other hand created a parent guide as an external tool to help with cognitive-behavioral strategies similar to how a therapist would look into how a parent and child can have a better understanding of one another.

“Probably over the past year we’ve been in the development of slowly iterating and figuring out how we can get the first version of the app out,” Wingfield shared. “At first I thought it was going to be an overwhelming thing because when you think of tech you think you have to be an engineer or have a degree, but technology is easier to incorporate and penetrate with the resources that are available now. It was really dope for us to kind of extend our relationship and give her a broader scope of what tech looks like because I think children don’t really get that.”

Gen Connect Game's Spring 2022 Goal

The holiday season is nearly approaching and it can be a challenging time for families with losses. With the help of the Gen Connect Game, Wingfield and Serenity want to get families moving, dancing and talking during the vulnerable time.

By the end of spring 2022, the two want to help 22,000 families get their app and serve as a conversation starter for loved ones nationwide.

Gen Connect Game can be downloaded for free here.

Editorial note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.