By: Jerry Lai
On March 14, 2015, I, along with seven other individuals representing Global Leadership Initiative (GLI), had the amazing opportunity to attend Friends of Children with Special Needs’ first annual “Special Needs Got Talent”, in the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. This talent show, hosted by our friends at FCSN, was a wonderful way for these special needs individuals to display their talent and also vie for the top prizes handed out to the top three performances. Fans came from all over the world to attend this event, with some supporters coming all the way from Singapore to watch and cheer on these talented individuals.
The night started off with Matt Keller, ABC news reporter and MC for this event, introducing the five judges tasked with determining the winners of this event. These judges were: Grammy and Golden Globe winner Kitaro, ABC’s Mimi Kwan, Senator Jim Beall, Assembly member Kansen Chu, and State Director of the Department of Developmental Services Santi Rogers. After these brief introductions, the competition really got going. Eight honorable mention performances and twelve finalist performances took the floor, including piano performances of genres ranging from classical to jazz, Mexican and Bollywood dances, and even performances by a full rock band as well as a solo harpist. In the end, the five judges had a hard decision to make, deliberating for a long time before announcing the winners of the event. Each of the winners received $500, a professional–quality video of their performance, and a beautiful trophy. For the rest of the participants, they received a trophy, $100, a California State Assembly certificate of recognition, as well as gifts from the FCSN and SF Giants. It was an incredible night for these individuals, the audience, and FCSN.
For my own personal experience, this event really took me by surprise. Admittingly, I thought I would be going to a somewhat uninteresting show and to be a good audience for these special needs individuals. But from what I saw and heard from the stage blew me away. These performances were unbelievable. I had no idea that people with different diseases and illnesses could perform at such a high level. The public stereotypes and labels these people as “useless,” “dumb” and “have no talent,” but what I saw that night completely threw away all these notions. These people with special needs are just like any human, and they all have talents they cannot wait to share with the world. It made me realize that each of us, instead of excluding, must include and cherish these people into our society. We have to help these individuals find their own special talent, display to the world what their talent is, and who knows, they might be the next Beethoven, or the next Michael Jackson or Beyoncé. FCSN is a truly magnificent organization to motivate and help these people realize their inner potential, hold fast to their dreams, and for each of them to “spread [their] invisible wings” so the world can see the gifts they each have. We, the Global Leadership Committee, hope to support our friends at FCSN in their future annual competitions of “Special Needs Got Talent,” and give each person with special needs a way to express themselves through his or her talent.
Support Friends of Children with Special Needs here: http://fcsn1996.org/j25/