All are invited to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Hidden Wings from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 13 at 517 Atterdag Road in Solvang.
Hidden Wings continues to soar in its mission to help autistic young adults, logging a successful 2013-14 school year full of groundbreaking moments and challenges.
The Solvang-based nonprofit, founded in 2009 by the Rev. Jim Billington and his wife, Julia, a local physician, has impacted dozens of lives in its five years — finding students a good job and a good friend in order to live productive lives in society.
First, the statistics.
Culminating several years of hard study and fitness, four students secured full- or part-time jobs, six are enrolled in community colleges and another is attending a four-year university.
Hidden Wings doubled the number of class offerings in the fall, installed a new state-of-the-art computer lab to emphasize team work and 3-D skills programs, and welcomed its first residential student. You will see exquisite art and practical design at the open house.
The 2013-14 school year saw Hidden Wings operate in the black, a financial balance the nonprofit will continue to strive for in future years. Hidden Wings continues to operate without government support, and thrives because of the generosity of donors and volunteers.
The school kicked its focus on therapeutic drumming up a notch, expanding the calming activity’s reach to public schools and its struggling students.
Always a pioneer, Hidden Wings worked directly with world-renowned drum maker Remo Belli and master drummer Mickey Hart to prototype the next generation of low-toned drums, with three new table drums, just recently released to the public. All three "first of their kind" drums will be on display at the open house. Drum facilitator Jerry Zacharias also helped fine-tune the practice that alleviates anxiety and inspires friendship.
Student artwork has been displayed at five venues from Hollywood to (in one case) St. Petersburg, Russia. Closer to home, a gallery on State Street exhibits an antique dress created by a multitalented student.
Hidden Wings tried to impact the local law enforcement community as well, hosting a countywide workshop on how young adults on the autistic spectrum can best interact safely with police and vice versa.
Sheriff Bill Brown reacted positively to efforts to voluntarily collect the names, addresses and pictures of those in the community with special needs — information that would be put into a computer database accessible to law enforcement.
More community service projects were completed in 2013, with students participating in local beach and hiking cleanups and fundraisers. One student, Ryan Abbot, even raised the second highest amount ($2,200) during an area cancer walk.
Along with the successes, Hidden Wings has taken the first challenging steps toward becoming a sustainable model that might one day be replicated by others.
Family support with tuition and volunteering of services has helped greatly, and even stronger commitments in the coming years should help Hidden Wings realize its mission.
Here’s to marking many more milestones in 2014, too.
— Jim Billington is the founder of Hidden Wings.