Imagine you are nine years old and suffering from leukemia… life is dismal to say the least. Then out of the blue you receive a surprise from your favorite singer–a heart-rending tune written especially for you. Talk about a dream come true. For Ashley Abernathy the dream was made reality by rock star David Lee Roth. The former Van Halen frontman wrote and recorded the song for Abernathy nearly six years ago.
“It was just amazing, really cool, to think that a rock star would’ve recorded a song for me,” said Abernathy who is now 15 and beginning her sophomore year at a North Carolina high school. Her leukemia has been in remission for almost five years.
David Lee Roth’s song to Ashley Abernathy wasn’t a “freak” incident. Rather, it was produced by the Songs of Love Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization, which records personalized tunes for chronically or terminally ill children and young adults. According to the organization’s web site, Roth is just one of many recording artists who have answered the call to help lift the spirits of sick children. Michael Bolton, Ronnie Spector, Jamie Lynn-Sigler, who plays Meadow Soprano on “The Sopranos,” and the cast of the Broadway show “Titanic,” have all lent their voices to record special songs for children in need.
The Songs of Love Foundation is the brainchild of John Beltzer a musician and songwriter. He started the organization in 1996 from his New York apartment, which doubles as a recording studio. It is named after a song written by Beltzer’s brother Julio, who committed suicide 12 years earlier – the final act of a struggle with depression and schizophrenia.
“I really believe that this was his gift,” Beltzer said. “The seed he planted, after a 12-year incubation period, that seed sprouted in January 1996.”
So how does the program work and how can you nominate a child in need? Songs of Love works with hospitals and families around the country. Medical staff and family members of sick children help identify patients for whom the foundation can record a song. The patient’s family completes a biographical information sheet, which they send back to the foundation. The group then commissions someone from its team of songwriters to craft a tune based on those details – name, age, favorite hobbies – and within 25 days, the song is recorded, transferred to a CD and shipped to the child. The CD is given as a gift. This month, the foundation expects to reach a landmark milestone with its 10,000th recording.
The organization plans to celebrate the special occasion today during a Black Eyed Peas concert when it will enlist fans to sing tune number 10,000. The song is for a 14-year-old boy who has sickle cell anemia and is being treated at a children’s hospital in New York.
For more information on this incredible foundation, which brings much needed smiles to sick children click here.