Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Star-studded 'Serenade' benefits Beverley School families

By Julie M. Green

What does indie music have to do with children with special needs? 

Toronto singer/songwriter Hayden Desser and his wife Christie Greyerbiehl worked tirelessly to marry the two for one extraordinary night last Saturday. 

The result was Dream Serenadea concert at Massey Hall to benefit children with developmental and physical disabilities at Beverley School in Toronto. The evening was spectacular, with performances from Feist, The National, Sarah Harmer and Billy Talent, to name a few.

Like many of us, disability wasn't on Hayden's radar until someone he lovedhis daughterwas affected. And while much has been done to raise awareness of disorders like autism, there's a glaring lack of funding for therapies and family support.

Three years ago my son was diagnosed with autism at Holland Bloorview. Aside from a block of publicly-funded speech therapy, any support he's received has been paid for privately, by us. Friends and family are staggered when they learn that this is our reality. I know of too many couples forced to re-mortgage their homes or cash in life savings (assuming they're lucky enough to have savings) in order to afford programs for their children.

With my husband’s family overseas, and my own family living several hours' away, respite is virtually non-existent. And our son's needs are such that we can't get the neighbourhood babysitter to look after him while we take a much-needed break.

Demand for public services outstrips supply. Many children simply aren't getting the help they need, when they need it. Some are rejected for programs they should qualify for, while others sit on wait lists for years, missing out on early interventions so vital to their development.

When searching for childcare for his daughter, Hayden discovered firsthand how hard it was to find an appropriate program. Today, his daughter is a student at Beverley.

Hayden created the annual Dream Serenade to support this cause close to his family's heart.

Proceeds from the inaugural event will fund assistive technology and a custom green playground at Beverley School and also provide respite services to families.

When artists lend their voices to meaningful causes, the result is a thing of beauty. On Saturday night, the atmosphere at Massey Hall was electric. 

But oddly, the highlight of the evening wasn't the Barenaked Ladies goofing around on stage. It wasn't the haunting tones of Matt and Aaron from The National, or the audience singing along to Feist's hit "1, 2, 3, 4." It wasn't even Hayden's moving tribute to his daughter in a new song.

No, the highlight was video footage of the lit-up faces of the Beverley kids during an impromptu jamming session with the performers the day before. 

See you at next year’s Dream Serenade!

Julie M. Green runs a special-needs blog at Yummy Mummy Club. Check out the photo of her below with her son. Photo of the concert above by Farida Peters.