BIRMINGHAM, Mich. – A special group of children and adults is using art as therapy through the nonprofit FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation.
"FAR is an organization that's been servicing the special needs community since 1951," Pamela Ayers said. "We have a deep history in the community. We provide creative arts therapy for people with special needs of any age or diagnosis."
Ayers is the president of the organization, and it certainly keeps her busy. Last year, FAR served more than 1,400 people. The organization offers programs such as music, art, dance and recreation therapy, as well as with yoga, ice hockey, bowling, social activities and summer camps.
For Ayers, there's one main reason for the nonprofit's work.
"The people who we serve," she said. "This organization just makes a huge impact."
FAR's neighborhood is all of Metro Detroit. It has programs based in Macomb Township, Birmingham and the DSO in Detroit, as well as providing creative arts therapy at 30 public schools. FAR has 23 therapists on staff, with music being the largest program.
"It's not just about learning percussion or learning how to play piano or learning a dance move," Ayers said. "It's about the social skills and the life skills that the kids are going to get out of it in the long run."
FAR operates rent-free out of a church in Birmingham to provide services and keep program costs low. It's clear those attending enjoy themselves, if their smiles are any indication.
"Parents always come in and say, 'Our kids don't even realize they're having therapy,'" Ayers said. "This is therapeutic, so there's a ton of benefits to it. So they come here and they're happy. We want them to be able to function in the community, have better lives at home, better lives at school."