HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A cultural center for hands-on dance, art and humanities is opening on Long Island for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Parents say their special needs children have dreamed of a drop-in center they can call home.READ MORE: Mayor Adams' Plan To Address Gun Violence Includes Return Of Plainclothes Police Unit
Jimmy Mead, of Bayport, has discovered his passion — dancing and playing instruments.
“It makes me feel happy when I’m dancing my body,” he said. “I could be a rock star.”
At the Spirit of Huntington Art Center in Huntington Station, inner selves are rocking.
The former South Huntington Public Library, which stood as a vacant eyesore for a decade, has been transformed into a creative arts hub for the growing population of individuals with special needs.
Erich Preis, who is on the autism spectrum, first suggested the idea.
“This is a dream come true,” he told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The nonprofit RISE Life Services helped secure funding.
“Our goal is to make this a model. There’s nothing like this under one roof, I believe, in the United States,” said Charles Evdos, the nonprofit’s executive director.READ MORE: New York State Supreme Court Strikes Down Gov. Kathy Hochul's Mask Mandate
The goal of the center is to empower a vulnerable population, including veterans in need of mental health services.
“We have an obligation to do everything we can to make sure that people have an opportunity to reach their full potential,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
“I found this place and it really opened my world,” one student said.
The Centers for Disease Control reports 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with a developmental disability. In Suffolk County, 18% of students have been diagnosed.
“I do art and music here. We like to follow along,” one student said.
“I come into programs. I do like clay,” another student said.
Their art is displayed in their studios on walls, just one simple gesture that makes a real difference.
“The special needs community, the DDI world, you need both vocation, education and recreation,” said Michael Kitakis, the center’s executive director.
The pandemic has been especially grueling for parents and their kids with special needs.MORE NEWS: NYPD Officer Wilbert Mora Remains In Grave Condition At NYU Langone
It’s hoped this drop-in site will be a blessing.