Adults with disabilities, are often limited in their interactions, with few avenues to socialize and express themselves. To address this growing need in the local area, the art group Special Friends was started five years ago to provide a supportive environment for disabled adults to come together to learn and participate in creative activities.
Special Friends hosts free art classes on the first Saturday of every month at the Candy Cane Park Activity Center in Conroe, where volunteers like local artist Suzanne Seiler design and lead the classes, which work primarily with acrylics.
Kari Schmidt, one of the founding members and a volunteer with the group shared, "What we do for our Special Friends is a ministry. They are God's Angels and teach us so much about life. They are the ones that are normal."
Each class typically lasts three hours and is comprised of adults whose ages span from 20 to 65, some of whom are nonverbal, deaf, and on the autism spectrum. At Special Friends, students receive one-on-one attention to help them complete the artwork, so that they feel accomplished at the end of each session. While some of the students come from local nonprofit organizations, others who attend the monthly classes are from Cypress and Galveston.
Kari noted that the classes have had an immense impact both on the volunteers and students who are exceeding boundaries and achieving things which surpass what is expected of them. The classes have helped the volunteers gain more patience and compassion. While, for the special needs adults, the classes have helped build confidence and communication skills. She shared the recent example of a nonverbal student who repeatedly exclaimed, "Enjoyed it!" after working on a painting.
As an additional way to support the students, art created during the classes is shown at local events and displayed at restaurants. If an art piece is purchased, a portion is given back to the artists and the rest goes towards supplies to keep the classes going. The Special Friends group has chosen not to opt for a nonprofit status so that funds earned by the artists do not conflict with any benefits they might already receive.
If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who might benefit from the art classes that Special Friends offers, contact Kari Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org.