Special needs kids have special talent

Updated: 2015-02-04 15:28

By LIAN ZI in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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Special needs kids have special talent

From left: Alice Jen, Lawrence Wang,Chris Koraltan and Gregory Hebert, members of the Dream Achievers band of Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN),take a group photo after performing at a party under the theme of Happy Chinese New Year at Tai Chi's Cultural Center in Fremont, California last March. FCSN is a Fremont, California-based non-profit organization that mainly helps Chinese American kids and adults with special needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Provided to China Daily.

A little music can make things go easier, and sometimes even help the money roll in.

Since last November, Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN), a Fremont, California-based non-profit organization that mainly helps Chinese-American kids and adults with special needs in the San Francisco Bay Area, has received more than half a million dollars in donations from local individuals, organizations and private companies, according to its president Qiao Li.

The latest donation — a check for $15,200 — was presented by the Rotary Club of Mission San Jose to a band called the Dream Achievers and their FCSN sponsor last Friday at a restaurant in Fremont.

The band is comprised of five talented young autistic people who have participated in FCSN's music program — Lawrence Wang (saxophone, vocals), Alice Jen (keyboard), Phoebe Memmott (keyboard), Gregory Hebert (guitar, vocals), and Chris Koraltan (percussion, vocals). Most of them can also dance and play multiple instruments.

"This all started when our emcee last week asked club members if they could help out FCSN. Hands flew up for $250, for $150, for $25. Then a lot more was donated,"said Larry Anderson, president of the Rotary Club of Mission San Jose.

"A visiting Rotarian donated $10,000. His mother, who had donated each year to the Special Olympics started by Sargeant Shriver, passed away last year. He said he could not think of a better way to spend his inheritance from her,"Anderson said.

He said Rotary Club members decided to donate after hearing the performance by the Dream Achievers and the brief history of FCSN during the gala fundraising event hosted by FCSN last November.

"We are truly grateful for the generous donations from the Rotary Club,"said Qiao. "Many of our children and adults have special needs, but they are not limited by their disabilities. As a matter of fact, some of them have special abilities in many areas.”

Qiao said the band members of Dream Achievers were such examples. "They best demonstrate what people with special needs can achieve and they also bring hope and happiness to people around them,"Qiao said, adding that the vision of FCSN was to build a community for special needs children and their families, and to provide a village of support for them.

"They are not kids with special needs, they are kids with unique abilities,"said Kathy Hebert, Gregory Hebert's mother.

"The organization provides my kid with a purpose to wake up and have something to do in a community where he feels comfortable and where he can be accepted, appreciated and supported. We want our kids to feel happy and safe,"she added.

Qiao said, "I have a child with Down's syndrome, and about 20 years ago, in 1996, 10 other families together with my family started FCSN to support each other, build a bright future for our children and bring happiness to our special needs community.”

Currently, the organization is serving more than 600 individuals with autism, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities with more than 35 activities such as afterschool, job training, summer camp and adult day programs.

"Even though we still mainly serve our Chinese-American communities, we also welcome other racial groups' families with special needs to join us,"said Qiao.

Currently, one of the organization's biggest projects is to build another center in San Jose, so that FCSN can serve more families with special needs in the South Bay, said Qiao, who appeals to people to donate and support the renovation of the site.