Clay Aiken – The 9th Annual Champions Gala for the National Inclusion Project

How is it possible that there are only three more days of 2012?  This year has just flown by.  For Clay Aiken, it was a year of many new and interesting projects.  I hope he enjoyed the year as much as his fans did.

So…lets get right to business.  As posted the last couple of days, I am picking my list of the  5 standout moments in 2012 for Clay Aiken.

~ The Top 5 Clay Aiken Events of 2012 ~

#5 – 2 Nights at Carnegie Hall

#4 –  Performing at The Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.

Today – #3 – The 9th Annual Champions Gala for the National Inclusion Project

This event is included on the list for many reasons.  First, the Gala and Concert is always an important part of the year.  This year, however, the National Inclusion Project took a risk.  They moved the event to the beautiful city of Washington DC.  The city was beautiful, but moving a huge event is always a gamble.  This year, the entertainment included several of Clay’s friends who added another new twist to the Gala.

The Gala seemed to generate more publicity this year.  With the move, the addition of top headliners and the amazing Honorees, more people learned about the National Inclusion Project and the wonderful work that they do all year long!

The Championship Gala of the National Inclusion Project was held on October 20, 2012.  The event was held at the historic National Theatre in Washington D.C.

The National Theatre is a beautiful venue.  The acoustics in the theatre were excellent and from all accounts, everyone could hear easily.  The jumbotrons that were placed above the stage made the performers seem so close.  Everyone had a great view.

The stage production of the Gala was very professional.  Even though Clay made some jokes about not having much time for rehearsal, the show was put together with obvious thought and planning.  Clay joked that they had a bad dress rehearsal and hoped that meant the performance would be good.  Well…it was excellent!

Ruben Studdard opened the show with a great rendition of Super Star.  It was fun to see him and the audience gave him a lot of love.

Arsenio Hall did an excellent job as the MC of the program.  His timing was great, he was funny, and he seemed sincere in support of The National Inclusion Project and his friend, Clay Aiken.

Arsenio joined Ruben on the  stage and one of the first things Arsenio said was that Ruben and he had something in common…Clay let them win on their shows… (Not a quote, but that was the gist of the comment).  Everyone laughed and you could feel the audience relax as they enjoyed Arsenio’s snese of humor.

All three Gala winners were amazing.  Each one filled your soul with love, pride and determination to work just a bit harder for inclusion.  Loretta Claiborne was moved to tears when she talked about how much she wished that The National Inclusion Project had been there when she was growing up.  What a strong lady.

I had the chance to meet Bridget and her father in front of the theatre in the morning.  She was looking at the posters at the theatre and excited to see her name in print.  I introduced myself and told her that I was looking forward to hearing her speak and excited to meet her.  Both she and her Dad were cordial and, hopefully, pleased that they were recognized.  They did see me again at the VIP reception and came up and introduced Nancy to me.  What a lovely family.

It was too bad that there was a problem with the teleprompter because it took away from the information and presentation by Steven Eidelman.  He did come across as a true advocate for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  He also reminded me how important it is to reach out to leaders like him.  They need to be informed and shown what an amazing job the National Inclusion Project does each and every day.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Ms. Leisey.  She is amazing.  Her ability in signing the program is both skilled and artistic.  Sometimes I sit and watch her as she works.  She puts such meaning into the phrases.  I hope she knows how much she is appreciated.

The band was wonderful.  They added so much to the night.  They are true professionals to help put the show together in such a short amount of time.  It was nice to hear the band play Clay songs during the transitions of the show.  I particularly enjoyed This Is The Night and Bring Back My Love.  Great idea!

The musical program was excellent.  The addition of Debbie and Ruben to the show added  variety and excitement.  Everyone seemed to enjoy Debbie’s enthusiasm and it is always nice to hear Ruben’s smooth voice.

The audience was pleased that Dee was still a part of the program.  Many fans were disappointed that he was not able to be there in person so the video was a nice touch.

Clay always seems to know just what to sing at the Gala.  His choices were spot-on and the combination of old hits to other songs that the fans love was brilliant.  As always, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

The auction of dinner with Clay is always a highlight of the evening.  Although there are only a few that can afford to bid, most people enjoy seeing the money pledged to the Project.  It was nice that Arsenio added the 2 seats for his show to the bidding.  The “Send A Kid To Camp” auction is also exciting.  This is an opportunity for everyone to help financially.

There seemed to be a lot of love on the stage.  All of the performers truly love and respect each other and were very respectful and appropriate.  Clay mentioned that Ruben was stuck with him as a friend  forever.  There was no doubt that Arsenio and Clay respect each other and have a true friendship.

Every time I attend a Champions Gala, I return home with a renewed passion to do whatever I can to support The National Inclusion Project.  The program is always uplifting and full of hope.  I send a huge thank you to the staff of The National Inclusion Project, the wonderful honorees, and all the performers for making this the best Gala yet.

 Well, what do you think?  

Should this event be on the list of 5 Standout Moments for Clay Aiken in 2012?

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