Today is Canada Day. It’s Canada’s national day and is a federal holiday celebrating the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act 1867). This united two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into a single country called Canada. In French it’s called Fete du Canada.
Today, Canada Day is celebrated with fireworks, concerts, cookouts, and sports games. Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario, hosts the most holiday activities. There are countless events, activities, and festivals to be found throughout the city in the city streets, parks,and museums. Fireworks are launched from Parliament Hill to conclude a day of patriotic festivities.
On Sunday, June 30th, the A.E.Finley YMCA in Raleigh, North Carolina, held their annual Finley Freedom Festival. A celebration of the 4th of July, the festival ran from 6:30pm to 9:00pm. According to their website, the Freedom Festival included food vendors, bounce houses, face painting, clowns, field games and hula hoops. The evening ended with “a dazzling display of fireworks complete with music.” Doesn’t that sound like fun?
It seems that Clay Aiken thought it would be fun too as he was seen by many at the Festival. In fact, he even stopped for a picture with a young fan. Since her father put the picture on twitter, I believe it is OK to post it. I hope Clay had a great time with his family and friends!
Clay has been involved with the Finley YMCA for many years. The following article was posted on Idolforums on May 11th, 2003. It tells some of the ways Clay was involved with the YMCA.
CLAY AIKEN ENJOYS SUCCESS, BUT REMEMBERS KIDS…
By TOM FOREMAN Jr. Associated Press Writer
But as Clay Aiken absorbed all that attention Thursday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, he retained his vision of a different type of adulation from his days as a YMCA counselor.
“I enjoy singing and I love performing. There’s definitely a thrill you get from performing on stage when everybody’s cheering for you, and then there’s a completely different kind of thrill when you’re working with children,” Aiken said.
“You don’t necessarily get the applause, and you don’t necessarily get the cheers and the pats on the back and everything, but there’s a different kind of acceptance. There’s a totally different type of feeling of worth when you work with kids.”
The “American Idol” star and Raleigh native has captured worldwide attention. He’s two weeks away from finding out if he’s the best among thousands of contestants who staked their futures on their own abilities as well as the opinions of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, the judges on the Fox television talent competition.
Aiken was a judge himself when he was a camp counselor at the A.E. Finley YMCA in Raleigh. He continually urged his campers to show spirit, and the group that showed the most got to duct-tape him to the gym wall.
“From what I’ve seen, his attitude is any way he can help children will make him that much happier,” said Jeff Flake, a supervisor of after-school programs at the Finley Y who has known Aiken for seven years.
“I see him on stage, that’s awesome,” Flake said. “But when can we duct-tape you to the wall again? That was more fun that seeing you on American Idol.”
Aiken said his affection for helping kids may stem from his own Peter Pan-like qualities.
“It’s just the way I think. It’s just the way I act,” he said. “I relate to them better because I probably think more like a kid than I do like an adult. I probably act more like a kid than I do an adult.”
Suzanne Lyczkowski, who runs the YMCA’s after-school program, said she doesn’t see Aiken losing his desire for working with kids despite his emerging fame.
“As much as he loves singing, he really loves his kids. I’ve seen him get so proud of them for doing things.”
A white banner with black lettering that welcomes visitors to the Finley Y refers to the counselor they still call “Clayton” or by his nickname, “Gonzo.” Several cars parked near the building have messages of support painted on their windows.
Each Tuesday, about 40 counselors, teens and parents gather in the rec room at the Y to watch Aiken compete. Without a cable connection, the gathering watches a grainy picture projected onto a wall.
Among those at last week’s gathering was one of Aiken’s former campers, Robert Nelson, a 9-year-old third-grader who’s temporarily confined to a wheelchair. He fell from playground equipment at his school last month and suffered a gash in his right leg that went down to the bone.
Some of Aiken’s friends at the Y called to let him know of Robert’s injury.
“I was expecting maybe a signed get-well wish from him or something,” said Robert’s mother, Robin.
Several days after Robert was hurt, Aiken called from California.
“My husband took the phone call and was floored himself,” Nelson said. “I was thrilled. It was great for Robert. He was grinning from ear-to-ear.”
Aiken, who was special education major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before his appearances on “American Idol,” has a special desire to help autistic children. “I think that’s where my heart is, really,” Aiken said.
During his visit Thursday with Gov. Mike Easley, one of his autistic campers asked for an autograph for an “American Idol” CD featuring Aiken and other contestants. Aiken signed it, and got a high-five from the boy.
“I have witnessed him take a child with autism who couldn’t communicate, and by the end of the school year, with Clayton just talking to her and working with her with cue cards and picture cards, that child could say a handful of words,” Flake said.
“When the parents of those types of kids would come in and see the progress that they were making, they would just be in tears and hugging him so much because of his dedication to those kids.”
By mentioning the YMCA during his performances, Lyczkowski said, Aiken has helped raise $2,000 for a campaign designed to provide camp scholarships to underprivileged children or families with financial difficulties. The money has come from around the nation, thanks to a Web site that she’s designed.
“There have been so many people who have supported the Y simply because they’ve heard my name associated with it, and that’s humbling,” Aiken said.
While his friends foresee greater fame in Aiken’s future, they wouldn’t mind if he gave it up for another roll of duct tape.
“He’s doing a great job,” Flake said. “But, heck, we had so much fun. Come on back.”
What a beautiful article about Clay. Isn’t it great that he still feels at home at the A.E. Finley YMCA?
What are you doing for the holiday?