Our History

FAR is a non-sectarian, nonprofit organization that provides services for people of all ages who have physical, intellectual, and/or emotional challenges. Formed in 1951 by parents seeking a safe place for their children to enjoy social interaction with friends, FAR found a permanent home in 1964, when the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham offered its extensive facilities on a rent-free basis. Through the years, our focus has shifted to align with the needs and interests of the society we serve. Early on FAR embraced an advocacy role.

We championed public understanding of the abilities and potential of people with special needs and sought legal protections through the 1954 Michigan Special Education Act. In the ‘70s, we began to focus on client self-development through participation in a structured therapeutic and performing arts program, and after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, further refined our programming to complement the public school curriculum. Professional therapists helped redefine FAR’s purpose, emphasizing individual enrichment through the customized application of arts, recreation, and life skills. It would no longer be about learning to dance – but about learning essential life skills through dance.

In 2000, FAR staged its first fundraiser showcasing its clients’ talents and new-found confidence as they performed with their therapists. This became an annual event, much loved by our clients and community of FAR supporters.

Other programs were quickly added to the calendar. In this timeframe, the approach to serving our clients evolved again. Instead of working with a single therapist in a linear program, FAR therapists offered the option of integrated programs that expand and coordinate opportunities for client growth across multiple therapies.

This fully integrated approach to answering the complex needs of each client has become the unique, distinguishing benefit of the FAR organization. Today, FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation advances our service mission by offering an expanded range of creative arts and recreational therapies to more than 1,400 clients of all ages and with a wide array of special needs. More than ever, we are committed to giving them a forum for self-expression and personal growth, long into the future.


Historical Timeline

FAR Timeline