“How is the weather there in Ireland?” asked SPECTRUM student Alex Kotas.
An exchange across the globe, between students in Artful IMPACT!’s SPECTRUM program for those with special needs, and Kaylee Rogers, a 10-year-old who lives in Northern Ireland and also has autism.
“At her Christmas pageant this past Christmas season, she sang Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and someone there basically posted on social media in Northern Ireland and it went completely viral within a day all over the world,” said Artful IMPACT!’s Artistic Director, Heather Hutchison. “And her principal of the school, Colin Miller, is a very dear friend of mine.”
Through this global connection came the idea for an international day aimed at connecting those with disabilities across the world, named “Stronger thru Song.”
“We like to raise awareness that we’re all artists, and we’re all connected through making music and that the arts make us stronger,” said Hutchison.
In this inaugural celebration, SPECTRUM students here in Naperville FaceTimed with Kaylee and her principal in Northern Ireland, and they all sang “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen.
A song that resonated with some – “It’s expressing my feelings, my emotions, and be who I am so it’s good,” said SPECTRUM student Elisabeth Andersen.
And an experience that made an impact on others – “It’s just a wonderful opportunity that we’re able to present ourselves, not just as people with autism or Down syndrome or cerebral palsy or whatever, as people with dreams and goals of our own. But simultaneously we’re able to cross paths with the rest of the entire planet,” said SPECTRUM student Mark Hasselo.
“It went fantastic, I gotta say,” added Kotas.
While this was the first Stronger thru Song global event, it will not be the last.
“Raise our voices together and we’re hoping that families would do the same, and school groups and activity groups and celebrities. Everybody hums in the car, everybody sings in the shower so we all have a connection to the arts,” said Hutchison.
A connection now reaching across the globe.
Others were also encouraged to record their own renditions of “Let It Go” and post them on social media using #StrongerThruSong.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.