NewsPinellas County


Gulfport non-profit gives everyone a chance to be themselves

Project Free
Posted at 4:47 AM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 08:36:50-04

Project-Free, the gem of Gulfport.

"Disabilities are really….not disabling!" explains Sharon Vanderline.

Vanderline quit her day job to start this non-profit, all for her daughter Lauren.

"She would go to different auditions, but the kid with Down syndrome would never be allowed to be with the regular band, they just would not allow her," says Vanderline.

Funny, because that same kid has performed with “regular bands" all over. She even shared the stage with an American Idol contestant.

"Never nervous. How are you never nervous? Because I take it to the next level," says Lauren.

The next level is where a lot of these adults have taken it. Theater, art, and music.

They perform, they create, and they make parents proud.

"It’s not what they can’t do, it’s what they can do, it’s to set that bar high, and I’ve not seen one of these young adults not make that bar," explains Project-Free's Lauren Rittenhouse.

ProjectFree gives adults with developmental disabilities a chance to live their best life, it wasn’t always easy.

But with the help of Sharon's sister, a special education teacher, and her brother, a doctor this really works.

"Every day, these are the coolest people in the entire world. There are no bad days at Project Free," explains Vanderlinde.