Music and Arts Education as an Alternative Form of Therapy



Please allow us to share with you some of the stories that inspire our work. If you would like to share your story with us please email us.


Winnie’s Story

To look at Winnie, she seems like many other ten year olds. She loves to run, jump, play games, enjoys gymnastics, and has a smile that will steal your heart. Her smile is her shield because it conceals a past that is a testament to her resiliency from a life that thankfully many of us will never know. Winnie was the fourth child born to parents who were both heroin addicts. She was born addicted and has struggled with the common effects of drug and alcohol exposure including tremors, irritability, failure to thrive, inability to soothe, learning problems, and family instability.


Winnie’s mother recognized how “out of control” things had become and she sought help. She found a way to become clean and sober, the first step she needed to take in an effort to save herself and her children from the life that had been created for them. Winnie’s parents divorced when her father was unable to make the same commitment to become clean and sober.


Life was a daily struggle for the family, there was a shortage of food, clothing, and eventually they were homeless. Winnie’s life continued to spiral downward and her emotional state became more and more fragile.


Winnie entered public school academically, socially, and emotionally unprepared. She did not know how to play, had no idea of what taking turns meant, could not sit still, and did not know colors, shapes, or other things children her age knew. Her behavior worsened. Suspensions and ejections from traditional school models were common events. Winnie’s behavior was taxing to her teachers, peers, and her own family.


The question became: Where does one get help for someone so young? Winnie’s mom found the help she desperately needed at Vista’s Julia Ann Singer Center and its Non-Public School. This fragile little girl finally found a place where she could begin to heal. Her family was connected with many of Vista’s resources that they needed to survive, including Wraparound Services. Skilled and dedicated teachers, together with therapists, offered a proven program of education and mental health services in a nurturing, non-judgmental environment. Winnie’s wounds began to heal and she began to approach learning as a life-long process.


The road to recovery has been bumpy; yet, Vista continues to support Winnie’s family and the immeasurable progress she has made in her academic, social, and emotional growth. Winnie is now reading at grade level, she can compute basic math and is beginning to tackle more advanced math concepts. She has made friends and has been invited to parties and even to sleepovers. Her family has secured housing and her mom is working a steady job. Winnie will continue to grow and Vista’s services will continue to support her because that is what we do!


Child’s name has been changed to protect confidentiality




Sent by Keisha

My name is Keisha. I'm 25 years old and reside in Rochester, New York. As a child, and I can't exactly remember the age, I was molested by my father. I kept this a secret for many years. When I finally thought I could trust someone and tell them what happened to me, I felt betrayal because he went back and told my mother out of anger at me. I wasn't ready for this yet, nor was I ready for my mother's reaction. Her reaction was, is this true? I told her yes and that I would never make up something so horrible about me or about someone else. This issue was never addressed to the fullest with my mother so my painful experience continued to hunt me.


Now, as I write this to you, that painful experience bothers me to this day. I feel that I can't trust anyone and I keep this bottled in. I am now seeking therapy as I need to release this anger. I agree with Sheila, the more you talk about it the better it gets for you. I just need people to tell. I still feel ashamed by what happened and I feel no one will understand other than people who have had this happened to them. I hope my journey is a successful one because it gets hard for me at times. But I believe I will make it through.


I found out about your organization by googling molested agencies for children. The reason behind this was that I told my therapist that I always wanted to own my own business but I didn't know what it is going to be. I have been doing a lot of thinking and I want to start a foundation that helps children who have been molested receive the help they need as well as provide activities through music, technology, arts, and business. To give them an opportunity to move beyond their pain and know that they can and will survive.


By coming across your site, I feel that it must be destiny calling me to follow this dream and see that it comes true because I know from experience how devastating this matter can be. I thank you on behalf of someone who has experienced this traumatic ordeal for having an outlet for children to grow and move beyond this pain. Thank you and maybe, no not maybe, you will read about my foundation to help kids cope and move on.




Sent by Nini

I would like to comment on the Elevate Hope Foundation. I was a foster child lost in the system, in and out of foster care homes, treatment centers and treatment foster homes.


Due to the pain and abuse I turned to writing poetry and had a deep interest in music. It soothed me where traditional therapy did not.


I was let go of at eighteen due to not being in school full time. I turned to the streets as a means of survival. Fifteen years later I am still surviving.


The point is: Having a program like Elevate Hope Foundation is to me very, very vital. I am overwhelmed with joy in knowing that there will be a place for children who are suffering in the way I did at their age. Music and the arts is what saved me, and still is saving me, from many of the terrible demons that can tempt you when you feel abandoned and abused. Thank you to all who have implemented this sanctuary of safety and learning. What a blessing it truly is!




Sent by Lg

I have just recently started visiting Sheila's website, and I have to say I am so impressed with the work she is doing and I wanted someone to know that me finding this site has given me the inspiration and courage to take on some past unaccomplished goals that I feel that I must revisit.


I have been a musician for years and playing guitar was my escape from my pain. I have a story to tell and I wanted this site to hear it first. My children are my life. My babies are my best friends. Isa and Mateo are Gods divine gift to me. Their mother and I separated about a year and a half now and these babies have been through so much. Recently I had worked a job that required extensive travel, and during those times my kids would stay with the mom, and on a couple of instances the kids were placed in a violent situation with the mom and her new boyfriend.


My children are in so many ways damaged by seeing their mother stab someone it is unreal, and she cannot see the pain that she caused them because they still love her, but with caution. Today, my babies are doing much better, and they seem in good spirits, but without prayer and trust and faith in the lord they would have never made it. So I am saying that I will support your cause in every way I can because abused and abandoned kids need someone to protect them, and I am willing to step up to the plate.




Sent by Michelle Spicer

Last night we attended the Ringo Starr and All Star band concert. Sheila E. had invited all the children to the front of the stage. My 6 year old daughter was at the very front. From where my husband and I were sitting, we saw Sheila E. lean over and give a child her drumstick. I leaned over to my husband and shouted, "She probably gave that to Sage". Then I started thinking, my little girl is sooooooooo tiny, Sheila E. probably didn't see her.


My little girl made her way back towards us. She shouted in my ear, "She gave me her drumstick but I gave it to someone else!" My husband and I were so angry at her because she is ALWAYS giving her things away to make other people happy. As we started to scold her, she started crying. I hugged her tightly and said that she had learned her lesson.


As we finally got home, I began tucking her into bed. She looked at me and said, "You know, the little boy that I gave the drumstick to, his face was all burned on one side of his face". I almost started crying. I think my little girl taught me a lesson last night.


If you happen to know Sheila E., please forward this story to her and let her know that she touched more lives that night than she realizes. Tell her my little girl was the tiny one in Amarillo, TX that was wearing orange and had her long hair pulled back in a ponytail (she is Hispanic). Maybe she might remember her! Thank you soooo much for your time.




Sent by Adrienne

Hello Sheila,
I'm not sure if you got my little letter and poems Friday night at the concert. So I'm sending you this email to say thank you again for the music and all your kind words. You have helped me to keep going when I felt there was no reason.


I was molested from age 3 to about 6 years old and then raped later after I got a little older. I wanted to kill myself and you gave me the strength not to. I thank God for you everyday and would love to help you and Lynn with any project I can to heal the kids who are still being abused.


I still have a long way to go in my healing process, but seeing you live for the first time in concert helped me to remember. My ordeal has left me with a problem that I'm unsure of how to handle. So please pray for me and I'll see you at any other events that you are performing or speaking at in the California area. Thank you again and tell Lynn I said thank you also. God bless you.



Sent by Beth L.

Dear Sheila,
I was sexually and physically abused for more than 12 years by one of my brothers who was 21 years older than I. By convincing me that if I told anyone my father would be angry and leave, my brother managed to make me keep the secret until my sister and I had baby boys 17 days apart. I felt I had to warn my sister so that she could keep her son safe.


Although I still have feelings of guilt and shame, I was able to accept that I was not to blame for what happened to me. I used the pain of what I went through to reach out to children in need. I have a son whom I adopted when he was 15 and my husband and I completed training to foster teenaged boys through the court system. Health problems caused me to lose my job, so we can no longer afford the furniture required to foster, but I trust that God will allow me to return to work so we can provide a safe, loving home for children in desperate need.


Thank you for working so hard to help the kids who have suffered so much. The work you are doing is more important than people can know. May God bless you and those who assist you in this magnificent mission!




Sent by Vonetta

For Sheila E.:
Where to begin? I've been a fan of yours for a long time. Since I was a young girl and the sky was the limit. Now I am a young woman and well, I haven't reached the sky, but have come pretty close. Meaning I am a proud mother of 5 healthy, smart, and beautiful children, with a wonderful husband of 11 years.


I feel the need to let you know, that you and your music has helped me, your music was my escape. I wasn't an abandoned child, but grew up with an alcoholic mother and at times felt abandoned. I would listen to your music and disappear into my own world. Away from the yelling, the anger, and the rage of my mother. With your music, I was able to dream of a better place and time. With that dream in mind, I was able to get through another day, and I THANK YOU! Music is an escape for everyone (playing or listening).


How you have touched so many children is a blessing. You are an Angel! God bless you and your beautiful family and may he guide and protect and give you strength in your everyday travels.

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