Alex Haunty Has a Mom Who Refuses to Give Up Hope

Inspiring Hope Ministries Celebrates New Building with Formica Envision™ Countertop featuring Alex’s Artwork

A family of four posing at an event

The Hauntys 

Nobody likes to be told no, but can you imagine being told not to have hope? 

That’s the situation Mary Beth Haunty found herself in years ago when meeting with a doctor about her then five-year-old son, Alex. Although Alex was still nonverbal at that point in his life, Mary Beth could sense that a lot was happening in his mind, but it was trapped inside. The doctor’s words were devastating.

“The doctor told me, ‘You have to stop having so much hope,’” Mary Beth recalls vividly. “That was difficult, and I found myself having to work really hard. But I never gave up hope with Alex.”

To keep her hope alive, one thing Mary Beth focused on was “People First.”  

“They are people with disabilities, not disabled people,” Mary Beth said. “The person always comes first.”

By putting her son Alex (the person) ahead of his cognitive disabilities, she opened a world of opportunity for him. She took Alex to the theater and art shows, and shared with him the family’s love for music. And when the Hauntys finally found a teacher who would give Alex art lessons like any other person, they would soon prove that doctor wrong in more ways than you could ever imagine.

“When I paint, I’m able to put what I feel inside out on the canvas,” said Alex, who not only answered questions for this story verbally, but also was chosen to give a high school commencement speech. “I let my art show someone I really care about them and love them.”

Exterior shot of blue building for Inspiring Hope Ministries

Inspiring Hope Ministries

Alex quickly won awards for his art and used the prize money to take fellow students to Broadway shows. Then he did it again. And that sparked an idea: Alex Haunty’s Theater and Arts Fund, Inc. to “promote access to the arts for people with disabilities through an integrated arts community model.”

But the Hauntys didn’t stop there. In 2017, Mary Beth founded her own non-profit, Inspiring Hope Ministries, to host workshops and events for people with disabilities.

“We’re trying to show people the genius that resides inside our adults with special needs,” she said.

And in 2021, Inspiring Hope Ministries expanded again, opening their new home in Middleton, Wisconsin, as a safe space for individuals with disabilities to learn, be creative and make new friends.

The new facility has a stage for performances, musical instruments, a bookstore and art supplies. It also features a gallery to showcase Alex’s artwork. And with some help from Nonn’s East, Counter-Form and Formica Group, you’ll find Alex’s art in an unconventional spot: the countertop.

Formica Envision countertop with flower artwork by Alex Haunty

A Special Formica® Countertop 

“They kept showing me sample after sample, but nothing felt right until I saw some artwork on a counter representing a sports team,” Mary Beth said of her time reviewing options for different countertop materials. “They told me ‘that’s too hard,’ but I had a vision and wanted to make it come through. I’m not a designer, but I am a mother.”

If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Mary Beth is not one to give up hope. She worked diligently to get one of Alex’s signature pieces, “Marigold for Melissa” (originally painted for his sister), into the right format to have it replicated as a Formica Envision™ Custom Laminate

Nonn’s East along with Bobbette Rose helped Mary Beth with the design.  Washa Remodeling and Design oversaw the placement and correct installation of this piece. 

“It was an honor working with Inspiring Hope Ministries on this project,” said Gina Senger, interior design with Nonn’s East. “Being able to have Alex’s colorful artwork of a flower displayed on the bookstore desk when you first enter the space really sets the excitement, energy and joy of the space.”

Formica Group produced the laminate sheet and then sent it to Counter-Form to be made into the custom countertop.

“As soon as I saw it go through production, without even knowing the backstory, I could recognize right away the importance of this piece and the thought and care that went into it,” said Mark Giannunzio, general manager at Counter-Form.

The countertop was built by a 35-year employee of Counter-Form, who expressed great pride in making this counter. In fact, when it was finished, he came into the office and told everyone, “You gotta see this!”

Formica Envision countertop with flower artwork by Alex Haunty

A Few More Words from Alex

As we concluded our conversation, Alex wanted to share two final pieces of information.

First, he said he’s making a difference because he received the same opportunities as people without disabilities. “I want to give those opportunities to other people with disabilities,” Alex said.

The last thing Alex told us was the reason why Inspiring Hope Ministries exists, why he is a gifted artist, and why this counter will greet visitors at Inspiring Hope Ministries for years to come. He smiled and said, “You should title this article ‘Alex Haunty Has a Mom Who Refuses to Give Up Hope.’”

James Ward Ewing

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