25 Years of Impacting Lives Through Art

“The struggle is knowing there is greater purpose in our suffering, “says Margaret Beresford, founder of Free Arts for the Abused Children of Arizona.  Beresford shares her story about her own childhood suffering, and her determination to build a thriving non-profit that continues helping our children here in Arizona.

Margaret Beresford believes art saved her life.

In return, Beresford has transformed the lives of 122,000 Arizona children over the past 25 years. Her dream to help has grown into something spectacular.

Free Arts for the Abused Children of Arizona delivers creative and therapeutic art programs, at no cost, to children ages 3 – 21 who have or are suffering from abuse, neglect or homelessness.

As a child, Beresford did not have friends because her mom was an alcoholic with an undiagnosed mental illness. Feeling isolated and alone, she even contemplated taking her own life.

Margaret Beresford sought help from her father, but he did not want the family or others to know what was going on in their lives, so she suffered alone.

While in college, Beresford continued with the arts. Through art she found recovery. Through art, she came to understand that her strength came from vulnerability. And through the art process, she was able to reclaim her internal power. 

Free Arts for the Abused Children of Arizona was born to help children recover and reclaim their power.

“I connected with the mission, which is bringing the healing effects of the arts to children. I connected with that on a very deep level,” Beresford says. 

According to Beresford, only 1 in 100 non-profits are around after one year, but she was determined to succeed where others failed.

She moved forward with conviction. Beresford felt a burning need to get this done, to change and save the lives of children who were suffering.  She felt this in her whole being.

Against all odds, she kept going.

Margaret Beresford has an “undying passion” for art therapy seeing how it had saved her own life.  She believes art heals and transforms lives through creative expression.

Trained in spontaneous art therapy, which is about creating a safe space, Beresford believes art helps with intense emotions and experiences, especially for trauma victims.

At Free Arts of Arizona, all types of artistic expression are explored. Music, painting, dance and other art forms allow each and every child to be touched.

Many stories of recovery stand out over the years.  Beresford tells of one, in particular, where a young girl was refusing to participate in group art, but instead went home and used her makeup, her mascara,  to create her own art in order to express herself.

Each story needs to be told, but Beresford recognizes that traumatized kids must be allowed to move forward in their own time, in their own way.

Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona continues to impact the lives of more than 8,000 Arizona children each year.

After 25 years, Margaret Beresford remains passionate and continues to believe in her mission. So do the 14 dedicated staff members and the more than 800 trained volunteers.

“Starting Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona made sense of my past and brought purpose to my childhood,” says Beresford.

“Art helps us get through our suffering and allows us to get to the other side.”

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