Winter Wallace, local singer-songwriter and front woman of the Winter Wallace Band, has the voice of a celestial being and, evidently, the heart of one too. Wallace recently started a project called "Autism & Art," where she will be collaborating with artists across various media to raise money for autism research and schools that support and teach autistic children.
"My original idea was for just well-known Houston artists. I thought, 'I could this to Lisa Chow...Oooo! I could send one to Shelby Hohl!!'" she says. "Then I thought, 'I could send one to everyone!'
"So, the process has begun. Things are moving fast, and I plan to keep it that way," Wallace adds. "I've sent requests to artists such as John Alexander and Camille Rose Garcia as well."
Wallace will be sending out blank vinyl "Doodle Toy" figurines to artists, musicians, actors, fashion designers, and other creative forces for them to decorate however they see fit, then hold a silent auction this October to raise money. Her wish list of artists and contributors has been expanding ever since she conceived the project.
"Will they doodle for the cause?" Wallace wonders out loud. "I have no idea. If they don't, will I be sad? No way! I totally understand, and I'm completely ecstatic about the amazing people who are involved already."
Doodle donations aren't limited to artists and musicians. Anyone can submit their work. Those wishing to contribute to the project should purchase their own Doodle Toys at Michael's or Hobby Lobby and mail them in.
Wallace has even stockpiled enough extra Doodle Toys to personally send some out to anyone unable to buy their own. Wallace is passionate about her cause as well as the creativity that it's bred in her own life and the lives she affects every day.
"When it comes to children, they need to move. They need to jump around and imagine they are astronauts," she says. "Creativity and imagination do wonders for self-esteem. Living in the real world makes you ready for it; autistic children thrive on it. Being creative helps you understand any child, especially an autistic child."
Wallace, known as "The Neverland Nanny" to her clients, has had ten years of experience teaching children through drama, music and creative movement at a variety of pre-school and elementary schools.
"I've worked with children most of my life," she says. "We used to have a respite care program at my home when I was 13. I lived with people who had special needs a few weeks at a time. It's pretty much one of the best things that's ever happened to me."
After over a decade of enhancing children's educational playtime, Wallace still finds herself inspired by their openness and honesty.
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"If you watch a kid on a playground, they get down to business. In about five seconds they run up to some random kid and say, 'Wanna play and be my friend?' and typically the response is 'Yeah!' Done. Kids are geniuses."
The exact date for the October silent auction has yet to be announced and Wallace is still looking for the right venue to host the event. Visit Wallace's Web site at theneverlandnanny.com to find out more about "Autism & Art" or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a donation.