Many people ask how this all came about. Well…it’s a long story, but an amazing one!
My name is D’Ann, and I am a wife, mom, and teacher. I have been an educator for 22 years…the last 10 spent as a first grade teacher. My husband, Pete, owns a sign business in Longview, Texas, and he was hired by Jackson Foltyn to create a sign for Jackson’s Theatre in downtown Gladewater, Texas. Throughout the process of building and installing the sign, Jack recruited Pete to participate in one of the shows he was putting on. This led to lots of extra time spent at the theater during the many practices in preparation for the show.
It was during this time that I met Roxy, Jack’s daughter, who happens to have autism. She is absolutely precious, and she doesn’t really meet a stranger. One afternoon, I noticed Roxy sitting in the back of the theater with her iPad, trying to tune out the noise and busyness around her. I felt led to create an area in that theater just for Roxy…a place where she could escape the madness, so to speak. Throughout my years as a teacher, I have used many different approaches to help my students with autism and other sensory or behavioral difficulties learn to self-regulate when they are overwhelmed or agitated, so I knew some things that might help Roxy. The following week, I created a sensory corner in the back of the theater…complete with sensory toys, fidgets, lights, a rug, special pillow and chair, and a curtain that she could close when she wanted to block out the rest of the world. I couldn’t wait for her to see it!
Fast forward to a month or two later, when Jack held an event at the theater. He announced that he was not charging admission for the shows that weekend. Instead, he called it “pay what you can,” and stated that the money was being raised for a local autism charity. Well…during intermission of the last show that weekend, Jack called me up on the stage and announced that he would be donating the money to Sabine Elementary, where I currently teach, to create a sensory room for our students! Pretty amazing, right?!?
Jack believes that all schools should have a sensory room for their kiddos. However, most of the time, there is not adequate funding for those types of spaces. That’s when The Roxy Room Project was born!