For some time I had been following a group of artists with disabilities online. One day I decided to go met them. I barely walked into the room and I knew that God had sent me there. I was apprehensive. I really didn't know much about people with special needs; I didn't think I was skilled to help them. I took a deep breath and smelled the paint; I looked around the room and saw their faces filled with happiness, and somehow, I saw people waiting to be my unconditional friends. I knew I was home.
Over the next year I volunteered one afternoon a week. It was my time to get away, check out and fall in love. Yes, I fell in love with the artists. Each artist was so unique and vibrant and special. They all had their own voice and I learned to listen to each one of them. I learned it was not about my skills, but about getting to know them on an individual level. In this way, I was able to help each one of them develop their own artistic style and form a new friendship.
After about a year, I began working there 5 days a week—coaching artists to develop their individual art style. As I began immersing myself in the program at this studio, I met more people that really cared about those with special needs. I no longer saw disabilities, I saw abilities. I also met friends and family members of the artists, and I enjoyed them all. This was an extremely special community I had discovered.
That brings me to my current mission. I want to give back. The artists at the studio have given me so much and I want to return the love they have given me. Many of these artist have to pay for the art mentorship program. I dream that this service will someday be free. Recently it occurred to me that I could use my talent to sponsor scholarships at the studio. While I cannot sell their art, I can sell my own in order to encourage and benefit the people I care about. That's why I created giftjoy.org. My dream is that giftjoy.org will grow to be a place where artists with special needs, and their loved ones can find and share encouragement. If you have not yet joined the mission, I encourage you to join here. Watch and see how giftjoy.org grows.