Last Friday 25 special needs parents were given a gift. A gift of the arts. We were treated to a night at the symphony. We were treated to the symphony by Valerie Bontrager, the director of education and community engagement at The Phoenix Symphony. She is a champion for special needs families and is looking to make the arts more accessible to our community.

When mothers have children who are affected by a disability their whole world changes and they lose access to things that everyone else takes for granted. In many ways, we lose access to the community. It is difficult for us to find ways to take our: children in chairs, children who can become overstimulated, and children who are medically fragile out in public.

Many groups are helping us regain access to the community. My personal favorite is Pal Experiences. Pal Experiences is focused on helping families with special needs children have positive experiences within the community. They do this by creating social stories, a PECs app, and a Pal guide. They have been very successful in getting arena’s, zoos, aquariums, and museums to join but have yet to tap into the Arts until now. 

Last December I was honored to be a part of a meeting hosted by Matt Wells of Renaissance Financial. Matt wears many hats. He is a financial advisor (ours in fact), has two special needs nephews, and is the president of the Phoenix Symphony Young Professionals.

When I told him about Melanie and her work at Pals he just knew that The Phoenix Symphony had to get involved. He arranged a meeting between D.A.M.E.S. (me), Pals (Melanie), and The Phoenix Symphony (Valerie).

While at this meeting I had an overwhelming sensation of gratitude. Here were three people, not personally affected by having a child with a disability, fighting for those of us who do. Fighting to give us and our families access to experiences we might have written off when we received our child’s diagnosis. Fighting for equality.

Together D.A.M.E.S., Pals, and The Phoenix Symphony will work together to help people with disabilities have access to the arts.

This all was possible because of people like Matt Wells. Someone who could and did connect others together who shared a common goal, purpose, and vision of the future. If you know someone who wants to help, wants to get involved, please open a door for them, grab their hand, and walk inside.

Together we can change this world for the better.