I’ve been to a ton of great talent shows over the years, but none have come close to impressing me as much as the Garden of Dreams Talent Show. The free event, put on by the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the Madison Square Garden Company each April, gives children struggling with unfortunate circumstances, such as illness and homelessness, the chance to forget about their problems by showing off their talents on the Radio City Music Hall stage.
I blogged about the show beforehand after chatting with celebrity host Tony Vincent and was expecting it to be chock full of great performers from his behind-the-scenes preview. What I wasn’t expecting was to be sitting in the audience with tears in my eyes after each act. To watch these genuinely talented kids express themselves and their hardships through their performances was an experience I can’t quite put into words.
Take 5-year-old Malik Naser, for example. Malik has to receive daily blood transfusions due to an illness and uses music as a distraction during the difficult routine – but you’d never know from the way he stood center stage sporting a fedora and bow tie as he sang Bruno Mars’ “Walking on the Moon.” Or there was 10-year-old Jeremy Dickinson whose love for singing got him through his neuroblastoma. He says he decided to perform “Put on a Happy Face” because he was always smiling, even through his toughest treatments. And if those two didn’t melt your heart enough, 6-year-old Julianna Pierre, a pediatric cancer patient at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, sweetly sang her favorite song from The Lion King, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
The 15 other acts ranged from a seriously talented break dancing group called “High Energy” to rapper Kasean Session, whose powerful lyrics are about witnessing his mother’s murder when he was 6 years old.
The amped up audience, awesome celeb hosts (New York Giants Super Bowl champ Victor Cruz, the Rockettes, and Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels from Run DMC – to name a few), and unlimited free popcorn made the whole night as fun as it was touching. I can’t wait to see what will come of these young role models and what the Garden of Dreams Talent Show has in store for next year.
Check out the Garden of Dreams video below (shown at the beginning of this year’s show) to see for yourself how incredible these kids truly are.
Photo: Performer Malik Naser with New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz
The Australian music group, The Wiggles, has been entertaining millions of children around the world for over 20 years. This year, they’re announcing three new cast members, including the first female Wiggle. Emma Watkins joins as the Yellow Wiggle, Lachlan Gillespie as the Purple Wiggle, and Simon Pryce as the Red Wiggle. Anthony Field, the founder of the The Wiggles, remains as the Blue Wiggle.
To introduce the new Wiggles, the quartet is on an international tour called “Taking Off!” and they will visit 35 U.S. cities starting in August. In addition to the tour, the group has also released a new CD and DVD. (To find a concert in your local area, click after the jump for confirmed tour dates.)
Watch a video of the new Wiggles performing “Do the Propeller!”, a song from their CD:
March may be National Reading Month, but it’s important to focus on reading every month of the year. In addition to setting aside time to read regularly during the day (or night) or visiting your local library and bookstore, consider subscribing to the Book of the Month service offered by GiftLit.com.
Founded by two moms, GiftLit allows parents to choose age-appropriate books (all curated by librarians, editors, and other book experts) to be mailed on a monthly basis. Each book arrives with a personalized card and bookplates, and GiftLit also donates 10% of their profits to schools, libraries, and literary organizations.
When 5-year-old Anthony Smith uttered those words to his mother, Christina, one day last year, he had been wearing his hearing aid without issue for four months. But that morning he woke up and decided that since his favorite superheroes didn’t wear hearing aids, he didn’t want to either.
Born with mosaic trisonomy 22, Anthony’s parents knew he would suffer from hearing loss. Because of a complicated childbirth and other health concerns, Anthony didn’t receive his first hearing aid device until he was 2-and-a-half-years-old. “One of our big regrets is that we didn’t push harder, sooner, because it made a miraculous difference,” said Christina.
While the first device Anthony had to wear was painful, the second one — the blue Phonak hearing aid referred to by his family as “blue ear” — seemed to be a perfect fit until Anthony decided he didn’t want to wear it anymore. Not willing to give up on a device that was helping to improve his speech and language skills, Cristina came up with a solution: “I lied. I said superheroes do wear hearing aids.” Anthony, of course, wanted to know which superheroes his mom was referring to, so Christina wrote an email to Marvel, publisher of comic books and creator of many famous superheroes, asking for help.
Although her email was sent to a general catch-all “fan mail” account, the Marvel team saw it and responded. As it turns out, superheroes do wear hearing aids: Hawkeye, a member of the popular Avengers team, had lost his hearing during a fight and wore a hearing aid for a period of time in the 1980s. But the Marvel team went a step further and created a new character, Blue Ear, to be Hawkeye’s sidekick in a special one-off comic book created just for Anthony.
That private gesture didn’t remain private for long, though. Almost a year ago, the story of Marvel creating a superhero for one little boy went viral. CNN, Gawker, and the Huffington Post were among the news outlets that picked up Anthony’s story.
While media attention eventually died down, the Marvel team went to work figuring out how to make the specific character appeal to others. “We immediately thought of Iron Man,” said Bill Rosemann, Marvel Custom Solutions Editor. After suffering a chest injury, Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter ego), relies on a suit of armor to live, similar to how Anthony relies on his hearing aid to hear. Iron Man is also one of the most widely-known and popular superheroes, thanks to two blockbuster movies in the past five years (with a third movie due out this May).
Iron Man was also a perfect fit for Kimberly Rawn and the team at Phonak, manufacturers of hearing technology for children and adults. “[Iron Man's story] was a complete parallel to what hearing technology does for kids and adults,” said Rawn. Together, Phonak and Marvel created a poster (see below) to educate children and lessen the stigma of wearing hearing aids.
The poster was revealed last week at the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City. At the event, Anthony said his favorite superhero is now Iron Man. Christina added, “[The past year] has been amazing and I think the biggest impact on [Anthony] has been him being a great self-advocate.”
But what about Blue Ear? His turn in the spotlight may not be done just yet. When asked if there are any plans for him in the works, Rosemann said, “Well, you never know. The more we get asked about it, the more we think what could be done, so I always say, ‘Stay tuned.’”
Created by author Norman Bridwell and published by Scholastic, Clifford was once the runt of his litter but he grew and transformed through the love of his owner, 8-year-old Emily Elizabeth. Since 1963, over 70 Clifford books have sold 126 million copies and been published in 13 languages.
Today marks a big day in NYC- Sesame Street Live has arrived at the Theater in Madison Square Garden! I am taking my 3-year old who can not wait to meet her favorite characters, Literally! Before the show, audience members (that means moms and dads too), can visit Elmo’s world, climb in Oscar’s trash can, take a spin in Zoe’s dance studio and sit in Big Bird’s nest! The Playzone opens one hour before each show so there is plenty of time for great photo ops. SESAME STREET LIVE, ELMO’S SUPERHEROES runs from today, February 7 through Monday February 18th.
You’ll see and hear the show’s familiar opening credits (except everything is, of course, upside down) before two Muppets appear (Carson, the butler, and the Dowager Countess). Hilarity ensues as the Dowager Countess tries to have afternoon tea…but nothing will stay put long enough! This parody will officially air on PBS on Monday, Februrary 4.
If you’re hosting any holiday parties this year, you know how much work can go into a “fun” evening with family and friends. The good news is help is right around the corner…if you’re willing to splurge on it. We’ve compiled our wish-list of our dream party products.
Cool Cleaner: Dyson’s Animal Complete (DC41) is a dream machine for vacuuming up before and after your big shindig. The unit comes with a genius tangle-free turbine tool that sucks up pet (and guest) hair out of the carpet. It’s also awesome for parents who have kids kids with long, vac-killing locks (sorry, Mom). While Dyson is the designer vacuum, it does all the dirty work…and makes tons of accessories for just about any hairy situation. Click here for details.
Easy Bake: Bread, desserts, cookies for Santa–keep them all yummy for your party go-ers with NewMetro Design’s Dome Savers. The containers vacuum seal at the press of a button, so your fruitcake can stay fresh into the new year. Click here for details.
Live Entertainment: Get a big show from a little box with 3M’s innovative Streaming Projector. The portable device uses Roku to project TV shows and movies from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, HBO GO, and more. Or you can just wow your guests with a screening of a life-size home movie on your living room wall. Click here for details.