Make a Difference Day mural reception
What: Ribbon cutting and reception for new mural
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Ribbon cutting by Wenatchee Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, reception to meet the artists
Where: Handball courts at Walla Wall Point Park
WENATCHEE — Shirley Beck sat in a wheelchair Thursday as she painted a ring of gold medals on a handball court wall. Her painting was her part of a larger public service project to beautify the courts and show that even people who need help have something to give.
Beck’s medals were painted replicas of those she has won in Special Olympics events. She said the medals signify her independence and are very important to her. In the center of her painting is the Biblical phrase, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Beck’s painting was one of a dozen — all painted by different artists with special needs — that make up a colorful quilt-like mural on the north wall of handball courts at Walla Walla Point Park. In the center of the mural is another phrase, “We all have the ability to make a difference.”
Developmentally handicapped individuals draw strength and help from many sources. In the Wenatchee Valley, one source is the city of Wenatchee’s Special Needs Social Program. Operated by the city’s Department of Recreation and overseen by the Chelan-Douglas Developmental Disability Board, the program has grown over the last decade to more than 200 members who have developmental delays including autism, Down syndrome and many other mental handicaps large and small. The group offers all kinds of recreational and social events throughout the year.
Members are people who have vast needs and depend on the help they get from many others. But that doesn’t mean they don’t give something back in return, said Sarah Fitzgerald, the program’s director. This is the first time the group has attempted a service project together.
“We wanted to turn around some stereotypes,” Fitzgerald said. “These people have talents and gifts of their own. A lot of people feel they have been defined by their disability. They want to be redefined. They all have something to give.”
Dozens of individuals have participated in the project this past week. Some painted. Others contributed photographs, stories and objects that inspired those who painted. Local artists Jan Cook Mack and Nik Penny helped with design and some instruction.
Dan Gayle painted a giant red elephant. Jenelle Jagla and Jessica Tesdahl brought a photo of themselves running in a Special Olympics event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. One of Jennifer Beem’s gift cards was duplicated in paint.
“We tried to pull in as many elements as possible,” said Fitzgerald.
Emily Hensley brought a photograph that marked a huge step in her 12-year-old life. Hensley’s intense fear of mascots has kept her and her family away from many sports activities, including Wenatchee Wild games where Walt the Wolf is present. She conquered the fear last year by posing for a photograph with McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog while at a Special Olympics event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The photo is now painted as part of the mural for all to see her courage.
Tony Armstrong, a prolific cartoonist and jewelry maker, contributed a cartoon of a grasshopper hoping to wake up as a butterfly. Nope. He was still a grasshopper the next morning.
The cartoon was a perfect choice for the mural, Fitzgerald said. Every grasshopper is important, she said, even if it can’t become the butterfly of its dreams.