Sometimes, the artwork at Cricket’s Hope says what the kids can’t.
“I wish I could change my mom to stop making bad decisions.”
“Life is hard with a mom and dad fighting.”
“My snake will protect me because when I call his name he’ll come out and defend me.”
Art therapy isn’t new, but it’s something that Cricket’s Hope has developed into a full program, based in the agency’s office in downtown Modesto.
In 2002, Cricket’s House was established by Christopher P. Walker Foundation. That foundation was started by friends and family of Christopher “Cricket” Walker, who died in 2001 at the age of 29. Cricket’s House originally was a site of its former partner, the Children’s Crisis Center. It then came under the Stanislaus Family Justice Center. Now, Cricket’s Hope hosts the Art Restore Kids and Camp program as a newly formed standalone nonprofit organization.
It’s a homey Craftsman-style building, packed with art supplies and projects. Children are invited to dig in and make a craft, play a game or have a snack.
“Sometimes, this is the only constant in their lives,” Executive Director Cindy Schneider said. “You feel like you’re at home.”
Cricket’s Hope Art Restores Kids program provides children with a safe place to share their feelings and promotes healing through restorative groups. The youngsters who take part often come from difficult home situations of addiction or domestic violence. They are referred by the Family Justice Center and local schools.
“We give them the opportunity to have a voice,” Schneider said. “They find out they aren’t the only one to have a struggle. It’s all about letting them explore their feelings.”
Children come to programs at the house, they attend camps in the summer, and the nonprofit also sends people into the Healthy Start program in Modesto.
As Cricket’s Hope develops as its own nonprofit organization, Schneider said, she would love to have the money to get a couple of vans to take children to camp.
“It costs about $8,000 for buses,” she said. That’s OK when she’s taking 32 kids, but with two vans, she could transport smaller groups to activities and such.
Other contributions would pay for a single art class ($50) or a year’s worth ($500). Sending a child to camp costs $500, and each camper also gets a pack with a sleeping bag, duffel and hygiene kit. Those run about $100.
Long-term, Schneider would like to create a teen game room, as well as a mindfulness room.
All of it is designed to help children process some emotions and reactions to events and situations out of their control. Schneider said watching children develop and grow over the years has been the best part of her job.
“The most important thing we do is long-term relationships.”
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