Clay Aiken – A Unique Thank You Gift


On Wednesday, July 15th, the National Inclusion Project sent out the following announcement:

Champions Gala attendees to receive a very special and unique thank you gift.

Our Champions Gala allows us to raise awareness of the benefits of inclusion, celebrate our Champions of Inclusion and thank YOU – our supporters, volunteers and advocates – in person each year. YOU make it possible for us to impact the lives of thousands of children with and without disabilities. To show our appreciation, our Co-Founder Clay Aiken has agreed to give each Circle of Heroes Gala attendee a very special and unique gift – a personalized and signed recording of a song never-before-released by him!

The staff and board of the Project always look forward to seeing each of you at the Gala. Your support means so much to us and the children we work with every day. For more information about the Gala and to find out how to purchase your tickets, click here.

Wow!!  What a gift from Clay!  It is one more thing on a long list that I will take home from the Gala!

It will be so exciting and inspirational to meet the 2015 Champions Gala Honorees. Each person will return home with a determination to see

Inclusion for All Children the norm!

The following information about the Honorees is from the National Inclusion Project and also SueReu

Hunter and Braden Gandee – 2015 Honoree

Hunter Gandee, 15, carried his younger brother Braden who has Cerebral Palsy, on his back for 57 miles to get the attention of the leaders, innovators and engineers of tomorrow to show them the need for a truly accessible world, a world that will be inclusive and embrace people with Cerebral Palsy. A world that lets people with different abilities not only become included but excel.

The walk went from Braden’s Elementary School in Lambertville, MI to the U of M’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Ann Arbor, MI. This is the second year of the ‘CP Swagger’ and while it began as an awareness event, it has turned into a fundraiser for an inclusive playground at Braden’s school because of the outpouring of community support.

Hunter and Braden hope to continue to raise awareness for the need of inclusion and accessibility for those with disabilities while inspiring others to step up and make a difference in their community. How exciting that they will be honored as Champions of Inclusion at this year’s Gala.

PROCTER & GAMBLE – 2015 Honoree

Companies like P&G are a force in the world. Their market capitalization is greater than the GDP of many countries, and they market their products in more than 180 countries. With this stature comes both responsibility and opportunity. Their responsibility is to be an ethical corporate citizen—but their opportunity is something far greater, and is embodied in their Purpose.

We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come. As a result, consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creation, allowing our people, our shareholders and the communities in which we live and work to prosper.

Diversity & Inclusion is deeply rooted in the company’s Purpose, Values & Principles. It is who they are, and aspire to be, as a company. The mission of Diversity & Inclusion at P&G is:

Everyone Valued, Everyone Included, Everyone Performing at Their Peak

Diversity & Inclusion at P&G is EVERYONE. It is living it every day. It is experiencing it everywhere. It comes to life through everyday experiences and interactions that inspire P&Gers to unleash their potential and perform at their peak. This peak performance is directly related to their ability to improve the lives of the world’s consumers.

Through their commitment of Diversity and Inclusion, P&G brings together individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and thinking styles providing remarkably different talents, perspectives, life and career experiences. They know to win, they must value, respect, and include the people that make P&G business possible. That’s why, in their increasingly interconnected world, it is only appropriate that they celebrate everyone’s uniqueness, every day.


Marlana was born with Cytomeglo virus (CMV), and by the time she was a few weeks old it was discovered that she was blind because her optic nerve never formed. Her doctors did not expect her to live past one year.

Amazingly after that first year, Marlana’s body healed from the virus. She became a child with a joyful nature beaming with the confidence that she can take on the world—and win. And although she was diagnosed at age 2 with cerebral palsy along with scoliosis of the spine, she has never used those challenges as disqualifiers for full-scale life engagement.

Marlana also has a love for music and a love for Kentucky Basketball. She listens to all the games with her family and just loves to hear the crowd get loud and proud! Her love of the beat of the cheers and the passion of the crowd led her to join her school’s cheerleading squad at the age of ten. Her booming voice and rhythmic ability made her a great match. When the dance routines proved to be more than she could keep up with, she just kept going until she figured out another way to use her voice and cheer on others – singing.

In 2012, the coach of the University of Kentucky Women’s Basketball game found out about Marlana’s amazing voice and love for the Wildcats and invited her to sing the National Anthem before a game. The video of her performance went viral. It has received over 14 million views and continues to inspire everyone who watches it. Marlana has had the privilege of singing the National Anthem for 4 Kentucky basketball games. They are 4-0 in those games.

Marlana inspires others every day to go after their dreams and not to let their differences get in their way. She sees nothing, but sees everything.

JUSTIN LEBLANC – Special Guest

Justin is a fashion designer, professor, and former Project Runway contestant. His designs have been featured at fashion shows and museum installations through the United States.

Justin was the first deaf contestant and a Finalist on the Lifetime television production Project Runway Season 12. Justin received the show’s first “Tim Gunn Save” and ultimately earned a showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York in August 2013. Justin’s collection was entitled “Sound Waves.” It reflected his journey from deafness, represented by pure and simple white garments, to the chaos of sound following his receipt of a cochlear implant, represented by garments accentuated with depictions of sound waves, random splashes of white, and elaborate 3-D printed accessories, to his ultimate reconciliation with sound, dramatically depicted by a gown made from Pipette Tips that sounded like rain as the model walked. More recently, Justin was a contestant on Project Runway All Stars Season 4.

Justin was diagnosed with a severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss at age one. He attended public schools from kindergarten until his graduation from high school. He has an Architecture degree from NC State University and a Master’s degree in fashion from the Art Institute of Chicago. Throughout his education Justin was mainstreamed in regular education classes with the assistance of a sign language interpreter.

Justin credits his deafness with enhancing his design abilities. He believes that being deaf has made him a more visual person and has propelled him into creating art, and ultimately fashion, as his preferred means of expression. Justin’s fashion collections convey stories related to his life and passions.

Justin resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where he is an assistant professor at North Carolina State University in the College of Design. Justin is actively involved in fashion design. He is also a frequent guest and speaker and supports various charitable causes that promote equal access and respect for those with disabilities.

Justin has been featured in a number of magazines and news articles published in the United States and internationally. They include Marie Claire, The Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Raleigh News & Observer.

Circle of Heroes Champions Gala

Saturday, September 26th – 6:30PM

Marriott City Center – Raleigh, NC

Special guests and entertainment will be:

Performances by Clay Aiken
Guest Speaker Designer Justin LeBlanc
Hosted by Lynda Loveland

For many of you, attending the Gala is something you plan to do.  If not, I hope you will consider it again.  The week-end event is always a highlight of my year!

There are three different types of tickets for the Gala.  Be sure and visit the National Inclusion Project website to find the best ticket for you!  TICKETS

For more information, visit the National Inclusion Project website – Champions Gala  


2014 Gala

 I am looking forward to the Circle of Heroes Champions Gala. Just think of all this organization has accomplished in just a few years!

For more information about tickets, ads, or even corporate sponsorship, visit the National Inclusion Project website. Everything you need to know is right there!

National Inclusion Project

Are you planning to attend the Gala?

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4 thoughts on “Clay Aiken – A Unique Thank You Gift

  1. These people are my heroes! My admiration goes beyond the moon and back for all that they have accomplished and will do in the future! Much respect and praise!

  2. I am going and can't wait to see everyone! Thanks for giving us all this info on the honoree's we will see that night! It's going to be another successful evening for NIP!! What a bonus getting a song from Clay! Yippeeeee!!! See you all there!!

  3. Thanks for this wonderful post, videos were great, wish I could go to the Gala but my funds are limited but I usually donate what I can occasionally.

  4. Oh another Gala I'm going to miss 🙁 I've been dying to attend the Gala ever since I got to "know" and heard Clay sing a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, geography and finances are getting in the way… But I'm still hoping, praying and saving up so that someday soon I'll be able to attend and meet Clay and Diane to personally greet and congratulate them for the wonderful work they have done and are still doing.

    Thanks as always CANN!!!

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