Since last September, Chris Benedict has been deejaying for a unique group of individuals every Friday evening. At 6:30 p.m., welcomed by a dark room, strobe lights, nonalcoholic refreshments, and a wooden dance floor, they meet at “the barn” at Jodi House, a nonprofit that serves brain injury survivors.
These individuals have physical and mental disabilities. About a dozen volunteers the other week greeted the newcomers and usuals alike with smiles and encouragement. I met with Benedict before he started his night of musical entertainment. He told me that he started this club because when he went to clubs downtown, “I was the only disabled one there.”
Benedict started deejaying in 9th grade, when his teacher asked him to play host of a party, and he's spun for 11 years since. He's also been a guest speaker during career day at Cleveland School, where he told kids that they can do what they want, even with a disability.
Area event planner Donya Diamond, who typically plans weddings but has been more focused on nonprofits as of late, gushed about her experience with Benedict. “I’m here to make his voice a little bit bigger,” she said. “Hopefully we will start interacting and break down those barriers,” she said about Club Diversity. She spoke candidly about the beauty of the project and of her love of the self-fulfillment that comes with working for a not-for-profit cause.
David Machacek, a financial services specialist who has dedicated time and effort to the project, said he is excited about Club Diversity “providing a social way to overcome social barriers.”
Without the community and Benedict's charm and drive, Club Diversity could not have blossomed as it did. The intermingling of the able-bodied and those with physical and mental disabilities is truly heart-warming. Among club sponsors are Easy Lift, which provides free rides to the event, and Fund for Santa Barbara.
Club Diversity also has Jodi House to thank for the venue and for providing Benedict and other individuals with the help they require. After beginning as a weekly meeting place for survivors of brain injuries, Jodi House has 120 members in its Clubhouse Day Program and serves 500 others through its Family & Caregiver Support Program, designed with the wellness of those who have sustained brain injuries in mind. Perhaps Diamond said it best: “It’s a great sense of community.”