A Very Special Trip to DC

Aug 25, 2010

Michele Suchovsky from our local VSA (Very Special Arts) sent us a recap and some pictures from the VSA International Festival in DC this summer, which Amway sponsored. We were very proud to see our local artists take part in this global event.  – JH

From Sunday June 6 through Saturday June 12, 19 students, chaperones and VSA staff from Grand Rapids participated in the International VSA Festival in Washington DC.  VSA is a non-profit agency that connects people with disabilities to the arts.  The International VSA Festival is held only once every five years and brings together over 2,000 arts and education leaders from over sixty countries.  The Festival celebrates the arts and disabilities through performances, workshops, exhibits, receptions, art activities and so much more.

This year, VSA in Grand Rapids was privileged to participate in this amazing celebration with a wonderful group of students- aged 12 – 22 years.  The adventure began with  a first-time airplane ride for the seven students, including a move up to first class, snacks and many laughs and smiles.  After settling in at the beautiful Grand Hyatt Hotel, we quickly travelled to the Smithsonian Art Museum for VSA’s “Start with the Arts,” a series of hands-on art activities and crafts.  The exciting first day ended with an Opening Ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, hosted by Academy Award Winner Marlee Matlin.  The Opening Ceremony included performances by Patti LaBelle and the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe.

Other highlights of the week included a visit to the Department of Education, where our group met Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and founder of VSA and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Another day included a trip to the National Zoo and eating space ice cream at the Air & Space Museum.  The girls loved the exhibition of dresses from First Ladies at the American History Museum and everyone loved seeing and taking lots of pictures of DC landmarks like the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.

Students also had the opportunity to see many performances highlighting people with different abilities, including dancers in wheelchairs, singers with visual impairments and actors with developmental disabilities.  The week was not only one of fun and education, but also one of confidence building and expanding possibilities

On Wednesday August 18, 2010, all the students and chaperones came back together to celebrate the trip with their families.  The reception included a wonderful slide show highlighting a few of the over 2,000 pictures that we took during the week.  

The trip was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity—an adventure that will never be forgotten.

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