My son, Eli, has had the privilege of performing in SPARC’s LIVE ART for the last 4 years. The LIVE ART program is for youth with and without disabilities in the Richmond community. The students work together in a variety of performing and visual arts classes throughout the school year. While rehearsing their performances, they build relationships and understanding of one another using SPARC’s unique C.A.R.E. curriculum based on compassion, acceptance, respect, and empathy. SPARC students come together in June and put on a show at the Altria theater for over 3,500 people that features national and regional recognized recording artists. However, the stars are not national recording artists. The true stars are the 200+ SPARC students who give it they’re all!
This year’s theme was “family.” And how appropriate since many of our family members attended the show to cheer on Eli and his friends. Eli’s involvement in LIVE ART has been life changing for him and our family. It is through the love and support of SPARC’s staff, teachers and students that Eli is brave & confident enough to perform on stage in front of thousands of people. Not only did Eli sign and sign in the performance this year but he even “headbanged and air-guitared.”
This year SPARC staff created Cast Cards and passed them out on the day of the performance so the audience could get to know the performers on a more personal level. These were the answers that Eli gave. He already knows that his smile is his contribution. What a gift that I hope he continues to share with all!
Jen Barnum is Eli’s mom, a friend, and an incredible advocate and fundraiser in our community!