Leaving a Legacy of Volunteerism and Equipping Children Through the Arts

Daily Point of Light # 7834 Jun 14, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Dana Farrar. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

Dana Farrar’s story is an inspiring one: for two years, she’s been a dedicated volunteer for Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS), lending time and talent in multiple capacities. Her commitment to her work with The River, TUTS’ musical theatre program for students with disabilities, is probably her deepest passion in the realm of volunteering. Through The River, Dana – along with her two daughters – provides in-classroom and student support for 10 Saturdays each semester in both the fall and spring.  

“The River is the part of the organization that gives students with disabilities the opportunity to perform, to act, to sing and to dance,” Dana explains, lighting up. “Depending on the day, I’ll be with a group of special needs students and support them as needed. I have so much fun with them. I get to do the dances and songs with them. I get to build relationships with these amazing humans who step outside of their day-to-day comfort zone to become performers.”

Dana Farrar is a passionate volunteer championing artists with special needs at Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) in Houston.

Dana’s involvement doesn’t stop at The River. She also plays a crucial role during tech rehearsals and throughout the production of the Tommy Tune Awards, TUTS’ annual event celebrating high school theatre excellence. Then, beyond her hands-on volunteering, Dana is also an active member of the Leading Ladies, a group of women dedicated to supporting TUTS’ education and community engagement through volunteering, fundraising and exclusive events. “They’re an amazing group of women who come together and do an incredible job with their philanthropy and fundraising, as well as volunteering their time and their efforts,” Dana shared. 

Dana’s commitment to volunteerism is deeply rooted in her family history. She reflects, “I come from a family of volunteers. Both of my grandmothers were volunteers. I would volunteer with one of my grandmothers at a nursing home up in Maine when I visited. My other grandmother felt very strongly about women’s education. She got her master’s and then wanted to give that opportunity to other kids. Then, my mother was what society would call a stay-at-home mom, but she didn’t actually stay at home. I would join her volunteering with the Red Cross. And she got me involved with volunteering with the Iowa Special Olympics in middle school and high school. My father was an industrial engineer, and one of his roles was to create functional tools and mechanisms for people with special needs. He even worked with Maytag to create a kitchen for people in wheelchairs. So I’ve always found a love for helping people, and knowing they’re completely capable of doing everything that non-disabled people can do. They just need to be given the opportunity.” 

Sharing her volunteer work with her daughters is one of Dana’s greatest joys. “What’s wonderful is that I get to share this with my two children,” she says. “Both of them also volunteer with The River. Ace helps out with the art studio – she’s a visual artist. Carys volunteers with the teen group and works with them. It’s wonderful to be able to perpetuate the love of volunteering with my kiddos.” 

The satisfaction and fulfillment Dana and her daughters gain from their volunteer work are indeed palpable. “We come home from The River and on the drive home we just talk about how wonderful it is – how good we feel,” Dana shares. “The little successes that students have. When we see students do something they weren’t able to do before. There’s really something about looking beyond your own success and seeing someone else succeed.” 

Dana’s greatest joy is sharing the love of volunteering with her two daughters, Ace and Carys.

For Dana, the rewards of volunteering are immense and far outweigh the time and effort put in. “The most rewarding part of my volunteer work is seeing these kids perform, seeing them shine on stage,” she says. “They don’t just go through the motions – they shine. They smile, they perform in front of hundreds of people. TUTS also gives them the opportunity to perform on the mainstage, so some of these kids go on to perform in large professional productions. The program itself is just amazing. It’s so inclusive. It gives opportunities to kids who aren’t necessarily given opportunities to perform.” 

Dana believes in the importance of looking beyond one’s own world to see and meet the needs of others: “I always think it’s important to look outside of your own bubble. It’s good to be able to see the needs of a community outside your own. Look in unexpected places – sometimes opportunities can come up spontaneously. Then, when you’re volunteering, the joy that I get, and I assume most volunteers get, is this soul-enhancing feeling that I’m actually helping other people. Not just in this moment, but also helping them create a different future, a different opportunity. That is such a rewarding feeling.” 

Through her dedication to TUTS, Dana not only supports the arts and students with disabilities but also perpetuates a spirit of volunteerism and compassion within her own family – a legacy passed on from generation to generation. Dana’s dedication to fostering a love for the arts in her community continues to inspire those around her. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Dana? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

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