OAKHURST — Like most students preparing to graduate from Yosemite High School this June, Thomas Garcia is planning his senior project and, as is required, he’s devoting time to an important charitable effort. Thomas has chosen to benefit the young athletes in our special needs community.
In addition to being a gifted artist, Thomas also has a disability. His differences are not always what is noticeable so much as his abilities.
Soft-spoken and compassionate, the natural-born artist is using his talent to adorn t-shirts that are being sold to raise money for a very special nonprofit cause.
With the help of family, the Coarsegold resident has established Tommy’s Art with a Purpose (TAP), and 100 percent of shirt profits will go toward constructing an accessible path of travel for Challenger Team athletes with disabilities at the Yosemite Mountain Little League Field. Thomas, 18, explains himself on the promotional page for TAP.
“To all of you who don’t already know me and my family, I was diagnosed with mild autism at age three,” Thomas notes.
“This means I have trouble understanding and using words. The good news is, at a very early age, I started to draw as a way to communicate with my parents. Art has been a part of who I am since I was just a little boy.”
The artist’s mother Yvonne Davis confirms that Thomas has always been creative. The family, including Yvonne’s husband Bill Davis, his father Louis Davis, and dogs Sadie and Widdles, moved back to the foothills when Thomas was five years old. Louis and Bill are originally from North Fork. Thomas also has two sisters who live with their families: Annette Rodriguez of Santa Paula and Caycee Davis, also of Coarsegold.
When Thomas was just two years old, his Aunt Sandra taught him to draw shapes. Starting with stick figures, he progressed to charmingly well-drawn cartoons, full of life, which were always highly fashion forward.
Drawn in a timeless manner reminiscent of Archie and Veronica, his characters have names and personalities and, looking at them, you definitely feel like they’re real kids and teenagers you know. Thomas feels that way, too.
Thomas likes how they dress, meaning how he chooses to draw their wardrobe. It’s full of color, texture and details.
Though somewhat nostalgic, his characters are modern and inclusive. He’s worked in all mediums — as the artwork covering his bedroom walls will attest — but colored pencil seems to be among Thomas’ favorites when it comes to cartoon people.
A lover of fashion especially when it comes to sneakers, with which he is meticulous, Thomas is both an inspiration and inspired.
He does a lot of the detail work in his head before it travels down his hand to the pencils, and takes the time to be precise.
Now mainstreamed for many of his classes, aids and instructors have helped Thomas expand his creativity throughout his school years in the foothills.
An award-winning artist, the soon-to-be graduate was named Best Cartoonist one year at Minarets. Now, this will be his third year under the instruction of Evan Higgins at YHS, where Thomas refines his craft in two art classes daily.
In the future, he’s up for exploring murals. In the meantime, he’s concentrating on TAP.
“For my Senior Project, I decided to put a few of my favorite drawings on t-shirts and sell them to raise money for the very special kids of the Sierra Mountain Little League Challenger Division.
“Challenger is a division of the Sierra Mountain Little League specifically offered to children with special needs in our mountain area. Challenger Division is the only special needs sports program offered in our area.”
Recently, Thomas and special ed teacher Gigi Drozen met with members of the Sierra Mountain Little League board of directors, including parent Jachie Cornell and league president, Scott Michel.
He also met Carma Cornell, pitcher for the Challengers. The purpose of the meeting was to enable Thomas’ understanding of where their fundraising fruits would end up.
Thomas has a goal to sell as many t-shirts as possible at $20 each, with proceeds going to the Challengers team after modest advance expenses are paid.
“Now is a good time for all of us to come together as a community to support our local special needs children and families. I will have three art designs to choose from.”