Pine Belt ‘celebrities’ help create art to celebrate Arc


Imagine walking into a room of normal sights, sounds, and smells. Perhaps you hear a telephone ring or turn your head to avoid a glare from a nearby window. Aside from a fleeting thought of who was calling or whether the blinds should be lowered, you quickly process these things and carry on.

To someone with sensory issues, however, the same environment is excruciating. Each object that moves makes a startling clatter or bang. The overhead lights are as glaring as an oncoming car’s high beams on a dark night. Each voice is a muffled roar. The crowd of voices is as jarring as an approaching freight train.

This is a common condition among individuals with special needs. It’s called Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and it simply means the brain can’t organize the signals that come in from the senses. A typical environment, such as a restaurant or department store, is overwhelming because the brain’s systems can’t sort through messages. Unable to organize this sensory information, a person simply shuts down.

But, there is hope for those suffering in this way.

The Arc of Southeast Mississippi, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supporting individuals and families faced with the challenge of a disability, is committed to offering sensory therapy to their clients. Sensory therapy helps by allowing an individual to explore and acclimate their senses in an environment without stress. With practice, they can respond in environments that used to be overwhelming.

Make Your mArc, a fundraising event benefiting The Arc, aims to fund a new sensory therapy space on The Arc campus where clients can learn how to navigate these once unbearable environments.

“We had a small space inside the gym on our campus, but we have completely outgrown that area,” said Cindy Pennington, Director for The Arc. “Without the new sensory therapy space our capacity to serve our clients would be far below the need.”

For Pennington, meeting that growing need is critical to helping Arc clients maximize their ability to interact with others, and there’s no doubt sensory therapy is an essential piece of their comprehensive approach.

“I’ve watched firsthand as clients go from being unable to function in public spaces to interacting and responding in restaurants, ballparks, bowling alleys and other environments that we never thought we’d be able to visit with them,” she said.

The Make Your mArc event, scheduled for September 12 at the downtown Hattiesburg train depot, is a fundraiser celebrating the different and beautiful ways each Arc client makes their mark on the community. During Make Your mArc the original art works of local artists and celebrities, created in collaboration with Arc clients, will be offered for auction.

In one of the first artistic collaborations, local stained-glass artist Kyle Baughman and Arc client Hallie Ferrill worked to turn a piece of Hattiesburg history into an original work of art. Starting with an antique bottle stamped with the city name, Baughman and Ferrill created a one-of-a-kind hanging glass panel.

For Baughman, who owns Hub City Stained Glass, the benefits of partnering with Arc clients are clear.

“I was honored to be a part of this,” said Baughman. “Seeing Hallie get so excited making art with me was amazing. This is definitely the most heartwarming collaboration I’ve ever done.”

More than a dozen local artists and celebrities have signed on to the project and will create original works of art in collaboration with an Arc client in the coming weeks. Their art will be available for purchase through auction at the Make Your mArc event. Auction proceeds, along with funds from corporate and individual sponsorships, will purchase therapeutic materials required to complete the sensory therapy space.

“We are so grateful to the sponsors who have agreed to support this event,” said Pennington. “Building out this therapy space is vitally important for our clients and we would not be able to do this without community support.”

Sponsorship opportunities range from $100 to $1,500, and all sponsorship levels include tickets to the Make Your mArc event. To partner as a sponsor or artist, please call 601-255-3692 or email For more event information, or to purchase tickets, visit