SHOW: The show will support individuals with evelopmental disabilities. Courtesy image

Those looking for a laugh have a unique opportunity to also support a local organization by attending the upcoming Breaking Barriers Comedy Night Out Fundraiser at the The Crow comedy club on Friday, Feb. 10.

Breaking Barriers is a non-profit group that provides a wide array of support services to people who experience developmental disabilities. This includes education, vocational and social skill development, and paid internship and work placement programs, among others.

The idea for the organization arose from a conversation between founders and longtime friends, Melissa Spicuzza and Ben Sarcadi. Spicuzza had a 20 year background in working with adults with developmental disabilities and saw the need for a different kind of approach.

“The idea to form Breaking Barriers stemmed from years of me sitting across the table from people with developmental disabilities and telling them, no, telling them why they could or couldn’t do something,” she said. “I eventually realized that this approach did not serve the person and did not respect their choice and their right to direct their own life.”

The goal of Breaking Barriers is to empower the individuals they work with to be able to pursue what they want to do and be more involved in their communities. They do this through a “person-centered” approach that acknowledges that all individuals are different and have unique needs.

“I wanted to support people to succeed, to take risks, and to live life on their own terms,” Spicuzza said. “I wanted to stop telling people why they couldn’t do something and start saying ok, we got this, let’s make it happen, no matter what the dream was.”

Breaking Barriers Director of Development Austin Rode said the upcoming fundraiser is a chance to share that mission with the public and hopefully raise money to help continue to make their work possible.

“We have been so focused on the quality of our person-centered support that we haven’t had a chance to tell the community about what we do,” he wrote in an email.

While he said the organization receives tax dollars from the governments for each person they serve, it isn’t enough to cover all of their needs and staff member salaries.

“We have a continuous need for qualified staff and to pay higher wages, which leads to a higher quality of support,” Rode wrote. This is a fulfilling career that is respected by the community. We want the pay to match that level of respect.”

All proceeds from the event will go to Breaking Barriers to help support their participants, thirteen of which are Santa Monica residents.

While none of Breaking Barriers’ participants are performing in the upcoming show, Rode said they are working on getting them enrolled in comedy classes at The Crow in the future if they are interested.

The show is from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m on Feb. 10 at The Crow comedy club at 2525 Michigan Avenue. For more information and to purchase tickets visit:

To learn more about Breaking Barriers visit:

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Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...