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A dose of inspiration offers a new perspective

Posted: October 22, 2008 10:09 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
If timing is everything, then the Evening of Inspiration hosted by LETMESAIL,Inc. couldn't have come at a better time. With the economy in a nosedive, the worst day in Wall Street history a recent memory and residents of the Santa Clarita Valley concerned about falling home prices and keeping their jobs, the inspiring examples of Kathy Buckley and Patrick Henry Hughes, were the right antidote to troubling times.

Held at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center on the campus of College of the Canyons, the Evening of Inspiration opened with the ARC Handbell Choir of North Hollywood which flawlessly performed a host of favorite tunes including "It's a Small World," "Edelweiss," "America" and the National Anthem.

"This remarkable group of individuals with developmental disabilities practices year round and performs at more than 50 events per year," Gary Spindt said. Spindt is the executive director and founder of LETMESAIL, Inc. and served as emcee during the Evening of Inspiration.

More than 650 tickets were sold to the Evening of Inspiration held Oct. 2. The event was a fundraiser to benefit LETMESAIL which offers social, therapeutic, recreational and educational opportunities for "differently-abled" individuals in the SCV.

"LETMESAIL is an organization dedicated to providing life-enhancing opportunities to those with disabilities," Spindt said.

A pre-event VIP reception was held on the second floor of the PAC and allowed sponsors and invited guests to meet the featured performers.

"It's just an honor to be here. I'm looking forward to this its going to be lots of fun to share my story with people and to meet everyone," said Hughes.

Hughes, confined to a wheelchair, was born without eyes and without the ability to fully straighten his arms and legs. However, he began to play music at 9 months of age and now a virtuoso musician and singer.

He is a straight "A" student a the University of Louisville and with the assistance of his father, Patrick John Hughes, he is a member of the University of Louisville marching band.

Hughes' inspiring story has been featured on ESPN, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "The Ellen Degeneres Show," in "People" magazine and "Sports Illustrated."

Buckley is a hearing impaired comedienne, actress and inspirational speaker. She has been featured on "the Tonight Show," "Today," "Showbiz Today," "Geraldo" and in "People" magazine.

As guests entered the main stage auditorium they were handed small packages of tissue.

"You might want to keep those packages close," said Spindt. "You might find that tonight's powerful guest speakers might move you to tears of laughter or tears of heartfelt emotion."

To assist hearing-impaired audience members Anna Bettencourt provided sign language services at the right of the stage.

Spindt described the evening's program as a "great community event."

"The focus of tonight's program is to recognize and applaud the valuable contribution that individuals with disabilities can provide to society - as loving family members, good friends, productive community members and especially as capable employees," Spindt said. "It is also intended to inspire each of us to overcome obstacles and to achieve more than we think we can."

Buckley led off the program with a humorous look at her life and how she has overcome her hearing impairment.

She described how she was placed in "special education" classes for two years until it was discovered that she had a hearing loss.

"And they called me slow?" she joked.

The audience laughed along with Buckley as she described her hearing loss as a "perfect gift" in relationship to dealing with her Italian family.

Hughes' inspirational story was augmented by his father's memories and a touching back-and-forth between father and son.

His affinity for music was discovered when Hughes' father was trying to find a way to keep his infant son from crying.

A video story that appeared on ESPN was shown to the audience and outlined Hughes' life story. The centerpiece of the story was how Hughes' father rolls his son around the football field - acting as his "legs" and executing the marching band choreography - when the younger Hughes performs with the University of Louisville marching band. The video offered a meaningful introduction to Hughes and his life.

Despite being "differently-abled" Patrick Henry Hughes spoke with humor and grace to the audience about overcoming obstacles.

"I mean, God made me blind and didn't give me the ability to walk. I mean, big deal," Patrick said.

Hughes also performed on the piano during the evening - demonstrating his musical abilities and talent.

Hughes and his father now travel internationally as inspirational speakers.

Lisa Golshani, a LETMESAIL board member said the evening helped her look at minor annoyances differently.

"This event is about making the most of what God has given us and looking at everything in a bright and positive way," she said. "It's all about your perspective."

Patrick Henry Hughes has written a book - "I Am Potential" - with the assistance of his father and Bryant
Stamford. Visit www.patrickhenryhughes.com for more information.

Kathy Buckley's Web site is www.kathybuckley.com

For more information about LETMESAIL, Inc. visit www.letmesail.org or call (661) 702-8555.

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