TODAY

TODAY   |  December 31, 2013

Nonprofit helps kids heal through art

Matt D’Arrigo, founder of the California nonprofit organization “ARTS,” was inspired by his own experience of dealing with pain through painting to create a safe haven where nearly 2500 kids a year who are struggling through tough times can express themselves through art.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> today on hope to it, an organization started by one man after his mother and sister were both diagnosed with cancer.

>> he found comfort in painting and started arts, a nonprofit organization offering classes in music, painting and ceramics all for free so kids could heal through art.

>> it's like my world. bad things happen in there and nobody bothers you.

>> in cassie 's world, she attends a school for homeless teens during the day and spends free time here at a reason to survive known simply as arts.

>> i love the fact that i can paint something and when i see the painting, i know what i was thinking and the colors, you know how they mean things.

>> you need one finger, put your finger right there.

>> arts founder matt d'arrigo also understands the pain and therapy behind the paint strokes. as a college freshman , he learned that both his mother and sister had been diagnosed with cancer.

>> i took that year off, that next year off and stayed at home but i used to go up to my bedroom every day and close the door and put on music and paint and the whole world would disappear.

>> he lost his mother but his sister kate survived and became a nurse and matt found his calling.

>> i wanted to create an art center where kids could come and forget their pain and express themselves and feel good again.

>> all of us are facing some kind of struggle or adversity. they need a reason to survive their pain. so we have kid who is are homeless. we have kids that experience domestic violence, foster care . the commonality is they love art. they love music. they love wright and poetry. that's their vehicle out.

>> arts is that vehicle for nearly 2500 kids a year. classes are free. and if you need a ride, their van-go will pick you up. arts is a safe haven for many of these budding artists.

>> it's been hard for me to focus in school and do good in school because of things going around in my house.

>> despite cassie 's own struggles she mentors others.

>> i think that's my number one priority when i come in here is to make sure that everybody is having a good day and not like a horrible day. like, who wants a horrible day? everybody wants a good day.

>> a good day for many is working on music, dance, even cerami ceramics.

>> take this sponge and wrap it around my finger.

>> asia's home life has been challenging too.

>> it's good to have a place that you can go where you know you're going to be safe. you know the people who are there are really going to take care of you and love you. they're my family.

>> and it's not all emotional support. kyle suffered a dramatic brain injury when he was 18 after skateboarding without a helmet.

>> i use art work as therapy to recover from that. it gave me an outlet to like focus on and like something that i was good at.

>> it's such an abstract form of communication. being able to put something down in a physical space is very empowering in itself.

>> she won a contest after arts submitted one of her paintings.

>> i think it was $50 which went straight toward art supplies of course. for anyone that feels a very creative inclination and maybe isn't getting support from the people that they value, i would remind them that all the great thinkers in the world all stood outside of the box in one way or another.

>> for kids like cassie , asia, and kyle, stepping out of the box is only a first step in their journey.

>>> it's a great program and by the way, pretty talented artists in that group.

>> beautiful artists.

>> so touching.

>> program is called arts. it's a great program. if you want to learn more about it go to today.com. plenty of information you can get involved.

>> it's so important for them to feel valued. this is one way. it's a great vehicle.

>> it's a safe haven .

>> and they matter and their opinion is important.

>> exactly.