WRITTEN BY: LAUREN BROOKS JOHNSON
PHOTOGRAPHS BY: REESE MOORE
A fledgling nonprofit engages adults with special needs in activities centered around healthy living and creative self-expression
“Let’s hit it!” Clad in a top hat and tee, Asher Maier taps out a beat to send local band The V-tones into a jovial rendition of “Button Up Your Overcoat.” The 22-year-old finishes his vaudevillian serenade with a flourish of the hands, a spin, and a bow as the audience gives an enthusiastic ovation. While captivating performances occur daily in our cultured city, this particular routine—held during a springtime show on a cozy stage at downtown’s St. Barnabas Lutheran Church—turns the spotlight on some exceptional people.
As a participant with HEART (Holistic Education and Art Recreation Therapy), Maier joins a dozen adults with special needs and intellectual and developmental disabilities and a handful of volunteers twice a week to engage in healthy living and creative self-expression. “There is a dire need for stimulating programs for differently abled adults. After high school, any services they may have had are cut off,” says founder Farrah Hoffmire, the health coach, yoga instructor, artist, and filmmaker who formed HEART in 2014. “We want to provide these adults an opportunity to be active and creative, connect with nature and community, and express themselves.”
The organization offers a diverse curriculum of exercise, such as therapeutic horseback riding, and visual and performing arts, including an original multimedia presentation at the close of each six-week session. From musicals to fashion shows, these productions boost participants’ confidence while raising awareness and funds for the nonprofit’s work.
This month, the group is launching a micro business, HEART’s Handmade, that will employ participants in making and selling fresh vegetarian dog treats. “Part of our mission is integrating differently abled adults into the community,” says Hoffmire. “It’s about being recognized, acknowledged, appreciated, and included.”
Visit heartsc.org to learn more about the organization and its April 1 fundraiser at Redux.
Watch interviews with HEART's participants in a video made by Hoffmire's Organic Process Productions: