Berkshire Hills Music Academy, a non-profit in South Hadley, uses music and other arts to help individuals with special needs become independent.
It's everyday people who volunteer to keep this amazing institute going, but one person in particular has dedicated her life to the academy's mission.
"All the blood, sweat, and tears to make something like this a vision and then reality is truly remarkable," said Michelle Theroux.
Berkshire Hills Music Academy, or BHMA, is dedicated to encouraging people with disabilities to enjoy a high quality of life through the arts.
Kay Bernon, inspired by her son Charles, co-founded BHMA 17 years ago.
"...and we found out he has this incredible passion for music and for the first tI'me in his life, I saw him display something he could really own, instead of a remediation program," Bernon said.
The non-profit, located in South Hadley focuses on using music to teach life skills - something executive director Michelle Theroux said sets them apart.
"We use music to address non-music goals and highlighting the abilities and not disabilities," Theroux said.
Bernon added, "The simple things. I can now understand money and walk to the community alone, or take a bus with a friend. I can take care of myself and cook, so im not hungry. I don't have to count on everyone to take care of me and I think that's really fantastic."
Theroux has seen Bernon's passion resonate throughout the academy.
"Kay, who's part Japanese, has a bell in her wallet, so there's literally a chime that rings as Kay walks through the building, so everyone's aware when Kay's presence has arrived, not only form the auditory piece, but her presence," Theroux explained.
On top of serving on every committee, Bernon runs about 20 events for Berkshire Hills and has raised millions, which helped fund the new Bernon Music Center.
However, Theroux told Western Mass News that it's not only money that Bernon raises.
"Raised awareness for BHMA, of the fact that individuals with disabilities have more abilities than their disabilities and what people may think from that and that changes peoples thinking and that's powerful. It's not an understatement that we would not be here if it wasn't for Kay Bernon and that's above and beyond anything a volunteer can do," Theroux
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