Sunshine Village Executive Director Gina Kos and board member Marie Laflamme at the interactive art exhibit.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — World Autism Day was recognized on April 2 as Sunshine Village hosted an interactive experience for the community to check out at City Hall.

Sunshine Village Executive Director Gina Kos said that World Autism Day is “a day to recognize the fact that there are so many people who are on the autism spectrum, but everyone is so different with different talents and desires.”

She added, “At Sunshine Village we cater to what they want. We have very personalized services so if someone wants to be a performance artist, we support them in that venue. If someone wants to be a cook, we help throughout their culinary journey. This is a great way to celebrate everybody.”

The first year interactive art event kicked off in the mayor’s hallway on the second-floor annex where visitors were able to view different interactive art exhibits created by the members of Sunshine Village.

The displays paid homage to the five senses and showcased the talents and perspectives of those individuals with distinct abilities.

Each exhibit also had the artist explain their idea as well as QR codes on the wall to learn more about the artist or exhibit.

Kos talked about how she felt seeing everyone’s hard work displayed at City Hall.

“I am so incredibly proud. I couldn’t be happier. I think this is just a visualization of the unique talents that the folks that come to Sunshine Village have and this is a realization of one more step in their dreams of either selling their handcrafted goods or showing that they are able to be a part of a culinary team,” Kos said.

After the art exhibit, guests were welcomed to the third-floor auditorium for a reception filled with refreshments and art pieces for sale that were all prepared by members of Sunshine Village.

People also had the opportunity to meet the creators behind the artwork.
Kos talked about what it meant to her to see the positive turnout from the community.

She said, “It’s a great way to celebrate that everyone can be included in our community, and everyone can lead a meaningful life. We are so gratified we get so much support from the community. We are so proud to be a member of the Chicopee community and this is one way little way for us to be able to give back.”

Sunshine Village was founded in 1967 to support people with developmental disabilities with the main campus being in Chicopee, 75 Litwin Ln., as well as Agawam and Three Rivers.

Physical, speech and occupational therapies are incorporated into music, culinary, art and sport therapy programming.

Kos added, “We help people find jobs, we help people engage in their community, we help people lead meaningful lives. People can always come for a tour to learn a little bit more about Sunshine Village at one of our sites or visit our website for virtual tours.”

The Sunshine Village website is sunshine.us.

Kos said that for over 10 years, Sunshine Village has participated in World Autism Day.

“First we started with autism awareness, then we went to autism acceptance and today we’re very proud to be able to do autism appreciation and by holding this event we are able to share all the talents and unique abilities of all the folks that come to Sunshine Village and everything they are able to do,” Kos added.

Kos also said that she hopes one thing that people can take away from the event is what can be accomplished when everyone works together.

“We hope that the community sees that everybody can have a great day and by working together, we can make that happen. For those that don’t know anybody that has a disability or don’t know someone who is on the autistic spectrum, you go from awareness to acceptance to appreciation and that is the course we have taken with the city of Chicopee,” Kos added.

tgarnet@thereminder.com | + posts