Extreme Kids and Crew, a Brooklyn-based cooperative of families raising children with special needs, two weeks ago suffered an unfortunate setback when the group's play space in Clinton Hill was broken into and vandalized.
Eliza Factor— founder of Extreme Kids and Crew-- opened the door one morning to the group's one-room park house located in the Crispus Attucks Playground (CAP) to find it had been ripped to shreds, turned upside down with most of the toys and equipment, such as their ball pit, either stolen or destroyed.
The Reader met with the organization's executive director, Caitlin Cassaro, last Friday as she was awaiting a new shipment of balls for their pit. And according to Cassaro, Extreme Kids and Crew is bouncing back!
"Eliza, myself, our co-workers and all of the families who are members here, we are very resilient, because we've already been through a lot," said Caitlin Cassaro, who also has a child with special needs.
"So when this happened, we shook our fists for a minute at the world. And then we said, 'You know what? This sucks, but we can deal with this; let's just go take care of it.'"
Within a week, said Cassaro, families from around the neighborhood and from Extreme Kids' flagship location in Redhook chipped in to help with cleanup. The non-profit also received a few private donations.
"I mean, we just had to keep going," said Cassaro. "We have families here who rely on this space. It's so important that we have a safe, open and welcoming space for families."
The CAP House is open four days a week, Thursday through Saturdays, for children ages 6 months to 5 years old. There is a small membership fee. But after that, everything is free of charge. And it works as a cooperative, with all activities organized by parents and facilitated by their small staff of 3 managers.
On Fridays at CAP House, there is a home-school group for families with children who are a little older. But mostly, it's a colorful clubhouse for kids to run around, explore, play, draw and color in a supportive environment.
Now, the group is focused on their upcoming annual fundraiser on Wednesday, May 14, at Littlefield in Cobble Hill, located at 622 DeGraw Street. The adult-only soiree is a true let-your-hair down affair for the parents and their friends, with a carnival them, live music and "fearless and fascinating" performances.
"We kind of kicked it up a notch this year, and plus we're doing something different: We really want to provide programming for all families, regardless of their ability to pay," Cassaro said.
"Our goal this year was to raise funds to allow families completely free access to the space. So we did some math and figured out how much it would cost one family total access to the space, and found out that it actually costs about $1,000 per student."
So they set a fundraising goal of $25,000 to provide 25 families access to the space, free of charge.
They also decided this year not to set a ticket price for the gala. No more $150 tickets to just sit down and have a drink. Gala participants pay whatever they can afford, whether it's $10 or $10,000. All they need to do is to go online, make a donation, and they will receive an invite.
"We found it was a more democratic way to celebrate what we're trying to do in our space, which is allow programming for everybody," said Cassaro,"and that's really exciting!"
"We've had some really great support. We're close to meeting our goals. And we'll keep going."