They starred on Broadway, but their most celebrated roles came later as parents of two Down Syndrome kids, for whom they opened a coffee house.
Amy and Ben Wright — deacons at the Wilmington, NC, First Baptist Church — launched Bitty & Beau’s Coffee specifically to employ people like their children, workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The Wrights have become a national sensation, winning CNN’s Heroes of the Year, after being featured on national news. But their trajectory towards canonization was marked by emotional turmoil and disgrace.
“There was just an enormous amount of grief — it was like I was grieving the son I thought I was going to have,” Amy told Baptist News about the turmoil of disappointment before Beau’s birth. “When we learned about Beau’s diagnosis I felt so sad and overwhelmed.
“We are so embarrassed about that now,” she added to the Wilmington Star News. “But if we had had more exposure to people with Down Syndrome back then maybe we would have felt differently.”
She came to love her Down Syndrome boy.
“I feel that was the moment I was drawn closer to God,” Amy said.
It wasn’t long before Amy saw that her special needs son was not a burden but a blessing. She saw his effervescent joy, and she discovered his giftings. People with Down’s Syndrome are in no way inferior or less worthy of life than others — and God has given them special qualities that others don’t have.
Six years later, Jane Adeline — called “Bitty” — was born also with Down Syndrome. Having two children with Down Syndrome is extremely rare.
“When you become a parent of a child with special needs, you are instantly thrust into becoming an advocate,” Amy said in CNN. “Trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see. My children are not broken.”
Eventually, Amy and Ben decided they would do something to help other people with IDD, 70 percent of which are unemployed. In February of 2016, they opened a coffee shop, which they named after their kids, and hired a crew of 40 with IDD ranging from autism to cerebral palsy.
To see Bitty & Beau’s employees making java or ringing up customers, to see them singing and laughing with clients in their new 5,000-square-foot facility, brings a sensation of faith restored in humanity. It packs a joy-filled jolt that’s better than caffeine. Read more about Bitty & Beau’s Christian coffee house for special needs employees.