This is my Thea Helen but I am not Greek. I was "adopted" into a Greek family. I've known Helen my entire life. My mom and she went to college together. I have so many childhood memories playing at her house or attending a party. Because of my coloring, people naturally thought I was Greek so I just went with the flow. I grew up with her daughter and ended up becoming very close with her niece, Gina. Gina's girls and my girls have grown up together. My girls go to school around the corner from Gina's mom-Helen's sister. You get the idea. They've always made me feel like I was one of the family.
My mom ended up working for Thea Helen all throughout High School and it was in that time frame that I did quite a bit of volunteering through her non-profit organization called "Arts and Services for Disabled". Whether it was helping with the patrons of the program , doing office work or helping set up art galleries- I value that time as it helped mold character being a young lady. When I was VERY young, I had visited a hospital with my girl scout troop and it was not a good experience. As a result, I developed a bit of a phobia or discomfort being around adults with severe disabilities. I didn't realize it until I had the opportunity to start volunteering at the program. Initially, I was embarrassed and felt idiotic. It was through the understanding and the golden heart of Helen, that I was able to work through my unrecognized and unnecessary discomfort and learn how to move past that fear. My entire life, she was always someone I could count on for a real hug. I'm talking like a solid 30 second hug and a warm smile. She wanted to know how I was and what I was doing. When I went though some trialing times as an adult, she was someone who I could speak with freely without feeling judged. As a teen, I remember talking to her about some things that some would feel shame to share with an adult. Again, she listened and I never felt as if I was wrong for bringing it up. Instead, she shared her loving thoughts on the topic in a positive manner and capped it with another hug. She has spread love to so many individuals with severe disabilities through artistic expression and music. The program she started has given those who might otherwise be left behind a chance to be heard in so many different ways. She speaks at different colleges and is a leader in her field. I'd also like to mention, her cooking is out of this world. She is a mother and grandmother and an individual that so many look to as a leader. She is the truest definition of unconditional love and has shared it willingly with so many individuals.
I am incredibly thankful to have had her as an example of unwavering love throughout my lifetime.
What is your name and how do we know each other?
"My name is Helen Dolas and we knew each other from before you were born. I know your mom...I met your mom in college and were in University choir together. We had many fun times and adventures. We went to each to each others baby showers and had babies together. We went to each others birthdays and life adventures. I saw you grow up into the beautiful woman you are. "
How old are you?
"I will be 62 next week."
What are you currently doing with yourself?
"I am a parent, a grandparent, a wife and a founder CEO of a non-prof organization called "Abled Arts Work" and a professor of music therapy at Cal State Northridge. I’m a presenter, key note speaker and facilitate arts and wellness workshops. "
Are you where you hoped you would be? If not/ Why? If so-what do you love about it and could you see yourself doing anything else?
"I cannot see myself doing anything else. I love it. It’s my DNA. Every day there is a new challenge, a success to celebrate. My career was a calling. "
Women are becoming a resilient sound that cannot be silenced. What are you doing to contribute that sound?
"Let's see...well, I think being a founder of a non-prof and being in a position of leadership to advocate for inclusion, diversity and equity with people with disabilities through creative arts. Teaching others to have a voice who typically have not had that voice. "
What is something you learned from a younger age that has stuck with you?
"Growing up in Greek household, I learned that family, culture, music, dance and church helped to shape my beliefs, values and self identity. "
Who is an individual who made a profound impact on you and why?
"My mother. I think I always admired her tenacity. Her ability to embrace change and acculturation-coming from a small island in Greece. As an immigrant she had to learn a lot. Her ability to raise us . I admired her strength and loving approach. "
What is a weakness or something that exposes your vulnerability and what do you do to combat/embrace it in order to grow?
"That I am in a position that typically men have. Having to be a voice in many challenging business situations. To overcome those challenges and be respected. "
What is something that you want to accomplish and what are you doing to get to that place, if anything?
"At this time of my life, I’m looking forward to defining what retirement looks like. As a woman being the founder of Abled Arts work- I want to leave it being able to sustain for many, many years for to be continue its mission for many years to come. As a mother and grandmother, being able to enjoy that family. "
And now..a few questions to lighten the mood...
Dogs or Cats?
"Well, I like them both...but I am allergic to cats."
Cheeseburgers or Salad?
"Cheeseburgers without the bread and the cheese. Salads-Greek."
Beach or Mountains?
"From the mountains, you can see from up high but from the beach, you can see far. The sounds are beautiful...plus, I’m Pisces, so I resonate with the water. "
Sweet or Salty?
"ohhhhh….Sweet. Chocolate. Or baklava. "
Lose all of your old memories or never make new ones?
"Well, with my mom having a stroke right now, I am grateful for her having a long term memory. She can’t remember what I said but she remembers who I am. So...I would say, long term. But there is nothing wrong with new memories...that’s what life is all about..moving forward. "
Disney..or is there any alternative?
"Yeah. I think Disney. Its’ pretty special."
What is a fun fact that someone may not know about you?
"One of things I love about doing my job is that I get to meet a lot of interesting people. I get to meet people that most people in the world don’t get to meet or learn about. I think that’s pretty unique and fun. An example of that..is Remo. (The drum manufacturer) being a friend. Mike Garson-Bowie’s piano man. Another fun fact is I do YiaYia’s (Grandma in Greek) sleepovers and I sleep in the bunk bed with them. "
And the final two important questions...
What is a common misconception about you that people make based on your appearance? What is your truth and how do you personify strength?
"I think because people see me as a woman with 'lips and shoes' and not looking past that...that I actually have a brain. My truth is that continue to contribute to my industry. Lips and Shoes are my superpower. "
You have inspired me. What about yourself do you hope to put out in order to inspire other young people?
"I hope to inspire my grandchildren. To let them know that being who they are is the most important thing in the world and to do what they love in life..and be who they want to be. "