DONATE TO ART FEEDS CARTHAGE HERE.
As Douglas got older I realized that he was a little bit different than most kids his age. This boy at 5 years old would lay awake at night with tears in his eyes just thinking about growing up. He’d think about getting older and how that would mean he’d have to be more independent, and about how him growing up meant all the adults he loved would grow older too… and they would die. We’re all going to die. That’s what would keep my little boy up some nights. Other nights he would request classical piano music or just some Coldplay to listen to as he fell asleep, you know – to take his mind off the sad existential thoughts. Then of course the music would move him so deeply he’d cry over that, even when it was just something as commonly heard as Fur Elise... and don't even get me started on how hymns make him feel. This boy that I get the absolute pleasure of being a mom to has so many ideas, thoughts, emotions, and feelings inside of him and he didn’t know how to control them. He would get overwhelmed by crowds, loud noises, new places, making friends, and anything outside of being at home. I asked his pediatrician about it because of course I wondered if he had social anxiety or even Asperger’s or any other form of autism. She recommended getting him into a program he might like, Art Feeds had been around a few years and she worked with them before so she recommended them. I contacted the founder, Meg Bourne and told her all about Douglas. I still have that first email saved and in her reply she told me how she and the rest of the staff loved Douglas already and couldn’t wait to meet him! I signed him up for a workshop they had coming up on a Saturday morning and she suggested taking him by the offices for him to meet everyone ahead of time before the day of the workshop. He fell in love with the colorful offices, the way everyone talked to him and treated him as a human being and not just another kid. A few days later it was time for the workshop and he was so excited! On the way there he started getting nervous and had the look on his face we all get before we have to speak in public and are trying not to puke. When we got there he tried to be brave, we signed him in, signed the emergency contact forms, and walked to the classroom door where he just shut down. He turned and walked to the right instead of going in and sat on the floor in the corner outside of the room and just had a panic attack.
He wanted to go. He just couldn’t.
He was stopped in his tracks by fear, anxiety, and all the things that come with being in a new place with new experiences and new people, except unlike most of us that find those situations exciting, for him it was paralyzing. I sat down with him and told him it would be ok and he’d have fun. He hugged his legs and made himself a ball and begged me not to leave him. Lucky for us, that’s when our lives and relationship changed. Meg came, she joined me beside him on the floor, I backed up and let them have some time... slowly I saw him come out of his little ball, I saw him laugh, I saw him look at her like she was an angel. He stood up, she joined him and he told me bye. Meg will forever have my heart because of that. Through Art Feeds Douglas has learned that he is valuable, that his feelings, emotions, ideas, needs, and wants are important and can be expressed instead of just letting them overwhelm him. He went to their monthly workshop every time and couldn’t get enough!
Meg began volunteering with special needs kids and through art one little boy began to express himself and to find value in himself. Though she was only 19, Meg knew more children could benefit from this. Shortly after this the tornado hit. Her house, along with such a major part of Joplin was destroyed. She looked around and knew that ALL the kids would need to heal, to process, to vent.
Joplin schools implemented Art Feeds in all of their elementary campuses and I wanted so bad for us to have one here in Carthage where Douglas was in kindergarten and where there is a language barrier that can be isolating for some. Of course Meg had already thought of that and was working on implementing Art Feeds National. No, anyone can start an Art Feeds Chapter in their community with her and her crew’s help. They set their sights on Carthage and as of the Spring 2017 Semester they are in all of our schools. I have served as a volunteer and though I cannot be in the classroom now, I do serve as a member of the board for Art Feeds Carthage. I have seen kids come in grumpy and not wanting to have another “specials” time added to their week to it becoming their favorite part of the whole school year.
We start off Art Feeds programing with the mural curriculum. Every elementary school in Carthage now has one somewhere that the kids can see. It is made up of their drawings, their ideas, their personalities. They worked together for it and it teaches them a sense of community. Though educators are not trained therapists or psychiatrists Art Feeds works closely with child psychologists to develop the curriculums. It takes $38 for child to receive Art Feeds programs for a year. This includes the supplies that they get to take home at the end of the school year so they can continue to express themselves and make art over the summer. In April every year we do a campaign called Raise Your 38 where my family and I sign up to be fundraisers and would love your support in reaching more kiddos with the non-profit that is near and dear to our hearts. This year we have committed to raise enough money for 10 little artists to benefit from Art Feeds right here in Carthage. You can view our fundraising page here and check out other people participating in this fundraiser too! But even if you can’t donate right now we invite you to join us after we reach our goal because we will be hosting a fun party next month to celebrate where you can come and boogie with us!
xo- Mat, Emma, Douglas, and Isabella Ball
PS. Here's the video form the 2016 Campaign. It stars the cutest kids I know!