Painting Happiness by amina mughnee

A vibrant Dr. Seuss themed design was spread across the lunch table as Providence Day senior Reilly Alridge explained her plan for her up-and-coming nonprofit, Happy Walls. The daughter of a Charlotte Mecklenburg School special needs employee has a personal look at how special needs students are evaluated. A typical special needs employee works with students who have emotional, mental, and/or physical disabilities.

One of the walls painted in the family center.

She noticed the drab, lackluster waiting rooms the special need kids would go to be evaluated, and she was determined to change that. Alridge states that “the kids were often scared and even think that they are at the doctor's office”. Her biggest issue was with the plain looking waiting rooms for the special needs students, so her main priority was to create an inviting environment that made the kids happy, hence the name Happy Walls.

“I decided that I wanted to try to brighten up the school and create a more inviting atmosphere for the kids”

“The nonprofit is about making spaces more pleasant to be in and ’happier’”, she describes as she picks out a pastel colored pencil for the design.

She sketches an extra truffula tree on the paper so precisely that even Dr. Seuss would be proud. Alridge strives to be the best she can be, but one would ask how can anyone balance a nonprofit, Providence day work, and college applications. “I do a lot of work on the weekends”, Alridge explains, “ I constantly have five reminders on my phone”. Busy as ever, she still puts a lot of time and energy in Happy Walls. Volunteers and friends also give her a hand by doing their fair share of work, so Reilly won’t have all of this on her plate.

Alridge and friends painting the wall

The truffula tree is receiving its finishing touches and she begins to move on to another portion of the layout. Alridge has already completed a project at the Smith Family Center in Charlotte by painting the walls there and is eager to expand and move onto her next task. She expresses her plan for expansion,

“eventually I would like to expand to churches, day cares, and really any space where a lot of kids gather, but right now we will focus on schools as a smaller goal”.

Friends and volunteers help paint the wall.

She’s driven to bring joy to anyone and anything. A nonprofit like Happy Walls would be a perfect addition to Students of Service at Providence Day one would think. However, Alridge is turned off by that idea. The team behind Happy Walls is mostly teenagers and that’s how she would like to keep it, “I like the fact that teenagers coordinate all of the arrangements. I would like to have a closely linked relationship with PDS, but remain our own separate non-profit”.

She’s driven to bring joy to anyone and anything. A nonprofit like Happy Walls would be a perfect addition to Students of Service at Providence Day one would think. However, Alridge is turned off by that idea. The team behind Happy Walls is mostly teenagers and that’s how she would like to keep it, “I like the fact that teenagers coordinate all of the arrangements. I would like to have a closely linked relationship with PDS, but remain our own separate non-profit”.

Panorama view of the painted walls
Picture of one section of the painted room

"I want to continue to do a lot of non-profit work in general”, Alridge conveys, “ I really enjoy the creative and artistic part of Happy Walls, while simultaneously making spaces a little more enjoyable for kids. So, I would like to bring Happy Walls to the school that I end up at next year."

Alridge begins to trace an outline of a “who” person-- from The Grinch-- while proclaiming that her goal for Happy Walls is actually quite simple, “My goal is really just to make a lasting impact on our community. I want to make the kids spaces friendlier and nicer for them”. She thanks her mom and dad for pushing her to create this inspiring, amazing nonprofit.

Alridge begins to trace an outline of a “who” person-- from The Grinch-- while proclaiming that her goal for Happy Walls is actually quite simple, “My goal is really just to make a lasting impact on our community. I want to make the kids spaces friendlier and nicer for them”. She thanks her mom and dad for pushing her to create this inspiring, amazing nonprofit.

Thanks are also given to Mrs. Downs, an art teacher at Providence Day, for advising the nonprofit and to her wonderful friends who supported her throughout the whole process.

“These people are some of my best friends”, Alridge indicates, “many are extremely talented artistically so it just made sense to start off with them as the founding members”.

Alridge is excited for what is to come for Happy Walls and is always welcoming new members, so she encourages everyone who is interested to join.

*All photos were taken by Reilly Alridge*

Credits:

All photos were taken by Reilly Alridge.

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