Keynote for Kennedy Krieger Institute

from Malva: The nationally known Kennedy Krieger Institute, based in Baltimore, has a dedicated autism division (lots of cutting-edge research and plenty of treatment options as well). Last spring, we got a surprise e-mail inviting Benjamin to be keynote speaker at Kennedy Krieger’s 17th Annual Autism Conference! Benjamin’s presentation, with its varied performance elements, would be “the ideal way to close their conference, providing attendees a feeling of renewed hope and a positive outlook” – what a compliment, a wonderful reason to be invited!

So our summer was devoted to preparing fresh performance elements: a “clean” spoonerism story (Pee Little Thrigs), two songs with ukulele accompaniment (Puamana by Dennis Pavao, and Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World Medley by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole), plus reviewing Benjamin’s poi-swing routine choreographed to Celtic music.

Our trip to Baltimore for the Oct. 12 – 13 conference was wonderfully successful. Benjamin loves being around airplanes and enjoys the excitement of travel, seeing new sights, meeting new people… Accommodating his dietary needs always takes much planning and special packing on my part, but all went off without a hitch. The conference was packed with informative sessions, and at the end, everyone convened in the enormous ballroom (with no less than four screens distributed across the front area so all attendees could see our projected photos!)

Benjamin took the stage, captivating hearts and minds as he always does. He has matured much as a singer, and his heartfelt performance brought tears to my eyes, as it did for others as well… “…and the dreams that you dream of, dreams really do come true…over the rainbow, bluebirds fly…why, oh, why, can’t I? …see friends shaking hands saying, ‘How do you do…’ they’re really saying, ‘I love you…’ I think to myself, ‘What a wonderful world…’”

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