Cat cafe in Aiea empowers youth with developmental disabilities
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Unlike a typical cat cafe, Toe Beans and Dreams offers a welcoming space for rescued animals and the special people who care for them.
Dr. Karen Tyson has been rescuing cats for more than 15 years. As a pediatric neuropsychologist, she also helps children with developmental disabilities.
Now she combined her two passions into one “purrfect” space.
“We work through our nonprofit KAT charities, and we go out and we trap kitties that are feral or have been abandoned, and we get them all their medical care, and then they eventually will end up at Toe Beans and Dreams, where we will get them adopted out, and kids with disabilities will have the opportunity to have a job,” Dr. Tyson said.
“Whether it is autism, or ADHD, or intellectual disabilities, or even learning disabilities, they really connect with animals.”
The cafe is home to 30 fur babies and a training center for the special education community.
“A lot of employers don’t have the understanding or education themselves to support young adults with disabilities. And so these kids just don’t get a lot of chances.” she said.
It’s a chance for feline and human. So far, Dr Tyson hired 10 young adults to help serve food and care for the cats.
28-year-old Samuel and 26-year-old Mason Gallagher and their mom Annette are excited to start work next week.
“I’m looking forward to the most is playing with kittens and finding the right owner,” Mason said.
“We feel like we belong already. That’s huge. It makes a world of difference and setting this up for success. I think we’re gonna do great,” Annette said.
A safe place to learn work skills and get free cuddles.
“These kids are often faced with bullying and judgment and labels, and shaming and loneliness. And this takes all that away. It’s magic,” Dr. Tyson said.
“She outdid herself, rescuing all these kitties but, you know, rescuing us a little bit too,” Annette Gallagher said.
Toe Beans refers to the little pads on the bottom of a cat’s feet and Dreams refers to its goal of empowering an underserved community.
“We’re doing this on a wing and a prayer that the community is going to rally around us and support us and help us out by coming to our cafe and donating a little bit to help us fund these kids with jobs,” Dr. Tyson said.
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