Clay Aiken – Believe

Last evening, at the Marriott in Raleigh, North Carolina, The National Inclusion Project celebrated their annual Champions Gala and benefit dinner.  The sold out event was filled with love, friendship, pride of accomplishment and wonderful music.

For the third time, Lynda Loveland served as the host for the event.  She did an excellent job.  Lynda was moved to tears more than once as she listened and watched the stories of the honorees of the evening.

Diane Bubel’s speech was wonderful.  She was heartfelt and professional as she reported on some of the accomplishments of the National Inclusion Project and let us know what was in the future.

A high-light of the evening was the announcement that the National Inclusion Project won the Christie Cookie contest.  A check was presented just prior to the event and the representative from the company was amazed at what she learned as she watched the program.

The honorees were amazing.  Sarah Cronk and Sarah Herr founded the Sparkle Effect.  They recognized that students with disabilities don’t just want to cheer, they want to fit in.  Sarah’s presentation at the Gala was polished and showed all of us that teens have a lot to give to society and that they can make huge changes in the world.

The Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics America  helps young people with disabilities reach their potential.  Since 1991, the company has invested over 9 million, supporting these programs, but are even more proud of the 30,000 volunteer hours they have given to their communities.  Their mission is to make a difference one individual at a time.

Patrick Henry Hughes is an amazing young man who entertained the Gala with his wit, strength and music.  Born with severe physical challenges, Patrick has been blind and in a wheelchair his entire life.  At the age of 9 months, Patrick started playing the piano and music changed his life.

In college, he was a member of the Louisville Marching Band.  He played the trumpet while his father pushed him in his wheelchair through the marching routines.

Patrick entertained the audience by performing two songs while he accompanied himself on the piano. His rendition of “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn and  “If I Can Dream”, made famous by Elvis Presley brought tears to many eyes.

The auction, led by Joe Veasey, was lots of fun.  Clay slipped on the Tour Jacket, proving that he could still fit in it.  Included in the auction was the shirt he wore during the American Idol of  “Bridge Over Troubled Water”,  a dinner with Clay for 10 people, and a day with Clay.  Some of the bidding was fast and furious.

Clay Aiken ended the evening by performing four songs.  It was wonderful to see him singing again.  Four professional musicians from the New York area joined Clay.  He ended the program with a wonderful performance of “Moon River.”

The entire event was very professional and well-organized.  The food was good, the tables, although close together, were set beautifully.  The video presentations were well-done.  Their production quality was well-down and the background stories of the Gala honorees gave the audience a better idea of their stories.

Clay seemed relaxed and happy.  He was joined by Faye, his grandmother, Jaymes, Jamie, Brett and his friend, Cameron.

The Gala was a wonderful success.  It was an exciting night, filled with lots of love and a pride in the work of the National Inclusion Project.

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