In early spring, a wonderful connection was made between SWAN’s founder, Diana Vuolo, and the Dixon-Sanchez family. SWAN student Ceevon, our 15 y.o. pianist and composer, and his brother Jaymier, our 12 y.o. drummer performed a beautiful composition by Ceevon called “Blissful.” Its soft, meditative melody created the perfect ambiance during the St. Thomas Episcopal Church service.
The next day, Diana Vuolo received a call from the boys’ paternal grandmother, Mildred Dixon. She and Diana were at the service along with the boys’ very supportive mother, Zuleyka. Mildred called because their hearts were overflowing with gratitude for SWAN. They were moved to see and hear Ceevon and Jaymier creating beautiful music that was artistic and appreciated by the congregants. (They received a standing ovation!) Mildred began sharing her story by saying, “I want to explain how SWAN has made an impact in my family’s lives by supporting Ceevon and Jaymier’s passion for music.”
Mildred was 17 when she and her husband started a family together. Sadly, they split up, and Mildred became addicted to alcohol. She knew it was keeping her from giving attention to her four children. Her sons, Carl (Ceevon and Jaymier’s father) and Colby are musicians. Mildred said, “Music has bonded my family across generations. Carl created a bond with his boys through music. They had a shared interest.” But she continued to share how Carl’s incarceration impacted the family’s well-being, “They have suffered financially and have experienced psychological distress.”
Mildred continued, “My past Incarceration and my son’s current institutionalization represent a broader family problem of substance abuse consisting of alcohol. But we tried to turn things around for ourselves and others who experienced incarceration and addiction. In 2006 we started a non-profit, I Am My Brothers Keeper, whose mission was to develop the whole man to discover their purpose through Empowerment, Employment, and Ministry. Sadly, it was not adequately funded, but God has given me this vision, and it is near and dear to my heart. It is for my sons’ future independence once they return home.”
“In the meantime, SWAN has come into our lives like a missing link. Their support has been healing, assisting the children and the whole family unit. Music relieves stress and anxiety, improves the kid’s performance, gives them confidence, self-discipline, self-worth, and social skills replacing the shame and stigma of having an incarcerated parent.”
Mildred summed up her story by saying, “SWAN has blessed my family with their efforts of protecting our mental health while ensuring our ability, moving forward, to embrace my grandsons’ futures as well as their father’s transition back to the community. It benefits our family and society by giving my son, Carl, and his children hope.”