Rainbow Days: Helping kids rise above homelessness through art and connection

Story by Bora Laci. Photos by Nancy McGuire and provided by Rainbow Days.

In the bustling city of Dallas lies an extraordinary organization with an unyielding dedication to the well-being of homeless children and families. Rainbow Days, founded by Cathey Brown in 1982, has been a beacon of hope for over four decades, providing essential support and healing opportunities to those experiencing homelessness and domestic violence.
Kelly Wierzbinski, Director of Family Connection at Rainbow Days, smiles as she hugs one of the children that receives services from the organization.

With an unwavering commitment to the cause, Kelly Wierzbinski, Director of Family Connection, shares her remarkable journey at Rainbow Days. “I’ve been at Rainbow Days for over 30 years,” she recalls with a warm smile.

Kelly’s involvement with the organization dates to its inception in 1982 when Rainbow Days had only four employees, including the founder, Cathey Brown. “It was really neat because the founder herself, Cathey, had a personal connection to the issues we address. She had a daughter, Catherine, who became the inspiration behind Rainbow Days,” Kelly explains.

Kelly’s passion for helping others is deeply rooted in personal experiences. “I had a sister that was killed by a drunk driver, and she had two young children.

“When I heard Cathey speak about children of alcoholics and her mission to prevent other families from going through what we did, I knew this is what I needed to do,” Kelly shares. Her dedication to prevention and making meaning of her family’s journey led her back to Rainbow Days, where she embraced the role of an art therapist.

Tiffany Beaudine, CEO of Rainbow Days, gave a tour of the Rainbow Days office– including where they keep supplies for the children. Photo by Nancy McGuire.

Tiffany Beaudine is the CEO of Rainbow Days. Her role involves a multifaceted approach, from development and communications to empowering her talented staff to carry out frontline work. Under her leadership, the organization has flourished, impacting thousands of young lives each year. The success of Rainbow Days is not only measured in statistics but also in the heartwarming stories of transformation shared by those they serve.

One of the organization’s significant achievements is its partnership with schools, targeting low-income areas where children face numerous adversities. By providing support groups, educational programs, and trauma-informed care, Rainbow Days creates a safe and supportive environment for vulnerable youth.

Funding remains a perpetual challenge for non-profit organizations, and Rainbow Days is no exception. Despite facing financial hurdles, they continue to strive for sustainable funding to expand their reach and impact even more lives. Through strategic collaborations and partnerships, they aim to deepen their impact while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to changing needs.

As an art therapist, Kelly understands the transformative power of art and creative expression in healing children’s trauma. “In my program, we do things called Art with a Heart, where we help kids express themselves through art. We provide various modalities and let them choose colors and techniques, as choices are empowering for children who lack control over their lives,” she explains.

One particularly impactful program is “Home is where the Heart is,” where children create a book about their concept of home. “It’s not just four walls; it’s the people who love and care about you. The children love doing this book, and it gives them a chance to talk about their feelings and realize they are not alone in their experiences,” Kelly explains.

For homeless children, even the simplest choices can be empowering. Kelly shares a heartwarming experience with a fast-food event, “In-n-Out Burger came to our camp, and I thought the kids would love the burgers, but the real joy was in the choices they got to make. They were thrilled to be able to customize their orders and decide what they wanted on their burgers and drinks. Choices mean so much to these children who lack control in their lives.”

Working with a transient population facing immense challenges requires flexibility and understanding. “Our children are living in domestic violence situations, emergency and transitional living shelters. The stress they face often leads to inconsistent attendance, which makes planning and organizing programs challenging,” Kelly admits. However, she highlights the importance of providing continuous support and never forgetting the children’s needs. “It’s hard work, but we have to be there for them. We can’t let them be forgotten.”

Cindy Wright, Director of Community Connection at Rainbow Days. Photo provided by Rainbow Days.

Cindy Wright, the Director of Community Connection of Rainbow Days, embodies the organization’s spirit of compassion and growth. Sharing her vision for the future, she says, “In the next five to ten years, we aim to be present in every shelter and school, ensuring that every child benefits from our programs.”

To achieve this goal, Rainbow Days collaborates with various organizations, including the Dallas Homeless Education Program and the World Olympic Gymnastics Association, to provide unique opportunities and experiences to the children.

Tiffany highlights the essential role of the community in supporting the organization’s mission.

“We need support from parents, donors, community members, volunteers, and young professionals to make a difference. Every individual can contribute in their way, whether through donations, volunteering, or organizing events,” Tiffany emphasizes. “We have an unwavering belief in young people’s power… We’re empowering them to tell their stories, speak up, and advocate for the change they want to see.”

Tiffany’s unique approach centers on empowering young people to share their stories and be vocal advocates for change. By amplifying their voices, she creates a platform for their brilliance to shine, fostering a generation of leaders ready to shape a better world.

One remarkable success story is that of a family of six, whom Rainbow Days met through the homeless education program. The family was living in a cramped motel room, facing numerous challenges. However, with the unwavering support from Rainbow Days, the children graduated from middle school with honors and earned full college scholarships. The mother, who works at a meat plant, also gave back by helping to feed 26 other families in need.

In addition to art therapy, Rainbow Days provides educational support to homeless children, bridging the gap in their disrupted education. Kelly explains, “Our education programs ensure that children can thrive academically despite their unstable living situations. We offer tutoring and homework assistance, advocating for their right to quality education.”

Moreover, the organization addresses the emotional well-being of parents as well. “We have support groups for mothers and fathers to help them navigate their challenges and develop healthy coping mechanisms,” Kelly adds.

Rainbow Days works closely with shelters to create nurturing environments where children can regain their sense of safety and stability. Cindy highlights, “We strive to make shelters a place of hope, rather than just a temporary stop. Through our programs, we want children to see that their current circumstances don’t define their future.”

To foster a sense of belonging for homeless children, Rainbow Days collaborates with local schools. Tiffany shares, “We work with educators and school administrators to create a compassionate and understanding environment. Our goal is to ensure that these children feel accepted and supported at school, regardless of their housing situation.”

Rainbow Days’ commitment to empowering homeless children and families is a testament to the transformative power of compassion, creativity, and community support.

Join their mission to help young hearts rise above challenges and dream big, as they are guided by the powerful messages: “I am special, capable, unique, and valued,” and “I can achieve my dreams, I will pursue my goals.”

If you would like to donate or volunteer with Rainbow Days, you can learn more on their website.