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Paint, crayons, markers help ease childhood trauma

Thankfully, most of the paint Tuesday morning was watercolor as there was a fair amount of it finding its way onto clothes, hands, and perhaps in some hair of young artists at the Children’s Center in Dobson.

The Surry Regional Association of Realtors got together to donate a huge box of art supplies for about 20 kids for a little art therapy posing as good old-fashioned fun; there was pizza thrown in for good measure. The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery’s Outreach Coordinator Charlotte Reeves said her office helped coordinate the morning of artistic expression.

Surry Central graduate, Noah Lowe Scholarship winner, and third-year North Carolina School of the Arts student Delia Chavez donned the smock as the session leader and floated around a large square table as the kids worked on various pieces of art.

“These paintings are going to go up in the library and other kids are going to see it. So, if you don’t mind do what makes you happy because what makes you happy might make another person happy,” Chavez said to the artists before they dove into their work.

Everyone is a critic they say, and Ariel was her own as showed off some of her homemade art and proclaimed, “I’m not an artist.” She then grabbed a brush and dabbed it into blue paint before getting back to the piece in front of her with a smile.

There was a need for some help in getting this art therapy session going. Reeves was in a women’s group meeting with Stephanie Montgomery who is the president of the Realtors’ group when the connection was made. “Stephanie was sitting beside me at a women’s meeting and she leaned over and asked how they could help,” Reeves explained as artists buzzed in the room around her.

“Then I met with Robin (Testerman Beeson), and she said the art camp got cancelled because funding was cut. I put two and two together, brought in Stephanie and the Surry Regional Association of Realtors and Jennifer who is active in the Rotary and the Surry County All-Stars Prevention Group, and they are responsible for all these supplies.”

Jennifer Sinacore said that Realtors from offices across the area aided in the effort and they estimated that from the time they heard the art camp was canceled to Tuesday’s session that perhaps five to six weeks had passed.

The entire Surry Regional Association of Realtors stepped up for the kids, Reeves said, and the results can be impactful. “I really truly believe in art and the power of it,” Reeves said. At a recent conference she said the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America “were really pushing art therapy.”

“I started reading and learning about it… I learned about the significance of art therapy. When someone has trauma and you get frozen in a fight-or-flight mindset, art therapy can take whatever happened while you are drawing you are also expressing, releasing it, and it gives you a better way to cope with trauma.”

The Office of Substance Abuse Recovery’s Outreach has been working as part of a pilot program with UNC and the CDC on identifying root causes of childhood trauma that may lead to substance abuse issues later in life.

“Many children in our community experience levels of trauma that can impact their ability to focus and learn in school,” Reeves explained.

“Children are especially susceptible to emotional stressors because they haven’t developed the skills to cope with difficult situations.” She said though that channeling their feelings through art can be a therapeutic way to process their emotions and past trauma.

“Unfortunately, violence and trauma are regular occurrences in the lives of many children. So, we’re proud to be able to fill the gap and support these kids through difficult times, using whatever means necessary,” she said.

She also said studies show that childhood trauma can affect brain development and mental health which can lead to increased levels of suicide, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Experts agree that early intervention is key to helping children through hard times and preventing health problems.

She has told a meeting of area coaches and educators that there is still time to identify and help a child in need before it is too late, and they begin making wrong decisions.

Just being present for these kids is sometimes enough and showing that people in the community care is a big part of the Office of Substance Abuse Recovery’s Outreach mission. “We want to intervene in a timely manner. It’s important that children address their feelings so they can heal.”

“We want to have as many positive experiences as we can for anyone who has suffered from a traumatic experience, especially youth, so as to heal it and act as protective factors,” Reeves said.

Creative arts activities offer a nonthreatening avenue for discovery and processing of an embedded traumatic experience, she explained. “These therapeutic activities can alleviate or at least diminish the effects of the traumatic experience by creating a corrective experience that can allow individuals to lead a more productive life.”

It takes a team effort and Reeves said without the Chavez, the Realtors association, and the Children’s Center the day may not have come to be. “The community is stepping up and I want to recognize that,” she said of the support of the county’s platoon of Realtors.

“The point of this activity was to have a positive and fun event for kids who may not have the opportunity to do these types of things,” Montgomery, last year’s Surry County Realtor of the Year, said of the association’s involvement with Tuesday’s event.

“I think we were successful with our mission. They had a wonderful time and were able to express themselves through their art.”



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