Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona celebrates 25 years

Bob and Renee Parsons with Free Arts Alumni (Submitted photo)

Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona kicked off its 25th anniversary celebration with a gala and massive donation received.

The celebration took place on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa with more than 300 supporters at the event where Bob and Renee Parsons were honored for their years of transformative gifts to Free Arts, according to a press release.

“Children are the world’s most precious gift and deserve to be shown love, support and guidance to grow into thriving adults. Unfortunately, not every child gets to know what it’s like to be loved or cared for by a parent,” said businessman Parsons in a prepared statement. “Free Arts uses art to create moments in time that have a lasting impact, helping these children gain confidence and realize that they are valuable.”

Presented by APS, Free Arts’ 25th Anniversary Gala raised $1,358,066 to support programs that use art and mentorship to transform children’s trauma into resilience, the release stated.

During the event, the Parsons surprised Free Arts with a $1.1 million donation, $1 million to go toward renovation of the new Free Arts building and $100,000 to support Free Arts programs.

“Bob and Renee continue to surprise and support us in the most generous ways,” said Free Arts Executive Director Alicia Sutton Campbell in a prepared statement. “The number of children in out-of-home care in Arizona has tripled since 1993 and this incredible gift will help us expand services to serve more children and families through our current programs and through The Bob & Renee Parsons Center for Hope and Healing.”

Proceeds from the event will support Free Arts’ goal to serve more children in foster care group homes, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, residential treatment facilities, schools and unaccompanied minor shelters through art, a trauma-informed curriculum and mentoring, the release noted.

“Throughout the years, the work of Free Arts has touched us deeply,” said businesswoman Parsons in a prepared statement. “It is truly inspiring to see the transformation that comes about when children are able to express themselves, through art, in a safe and encouraging environment.”

The Parsons, longtime supporters of Free Arts, have granted more than $4 million to the organization through The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation during the past six years, including the recent gift.

In August 2017, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation awarded Free Arts a $2.5 million grant to double the organization’s physical space on Camelback Road and establish The Bob & Renee Parsons Center for Hope and Healing, expanding programming and reaching children Free Arts previously were unable to serve.

Free Arts Statistics and 25-year journey:

  • Free Arts was founded in 1993 and served 50 children; in 2018, it served more than 8,000 children;
  • Free Arts had five volunteers in 1993 and this year it has more than 800;
  • The number of partner agencies has grown in 25 years – starting in 1993 with five, to today’s 43 partners;
  • Throughout its history, Free Arts has impacted the lives of more than 125,000 Arizona children.

Children served by Free Arts have experienced combinations of family trauma, homelessness and violence, the release described about the organization that helps them build resilience and begin the healing process, while providing mentoring, a caring community and an opportunity to learn new skills.

To learn more, visit FreeArtsAZ.org.

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