Alicia's Garden of Dreams Journey
by Julie Fournier
At the beginning of April, my daughter Alicia had the incredible opportunity of singing onstage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. This was made possible by the wonderful people at the Garden of Dreams Foundation. Garden of Dreams is a non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of The Madison Square Garden Company, including MSG Entertainment, the New York Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, MSG Networks, and Fuse to “make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles." In the six years since it's inception, Garden of Dreams has worked tirelessly to fulfill it's mission by creating unique and unforgettable events and activities that have brightened the lives of thousands of special children and their families.
Last August, none of this seemed remotely possible. After being diagnosed with epilepsy in 2002 at the age of three, failing 16 different medications and a VNS, Alicia was going through her second round of brain surgeries at NYU Langone Medical Center since 2009. She was tired, scared and extremely frustrated, with good reason. Our endlessly long days were highlighted by visits from Joseph Lee, Music Therapist. Throughout Alicia's epilepsy journey, her one chance to shine was always onstage. She was given a gift from God – the voice of an angel. Performing since age 5, Alicia is a true veteran of the stage. Once she began singing for Joseph, a bond was formed. She finally told him, "You know I can belt louder, but this IS an ICU!" After Alicia returned home, Joseph did not forget her. He nominated her for the annual Garden of Dreams Talent Show via submission of a YouTube clip, since we live all the way in Maine. The person viewed the clip and instantly wanted Alicia for the show.
The process, along with the final result, was awesome! Alicia came to New York for two rehearsals, each attended by celebrity mentors including Broadway veterans Justin Johnston, Derrick Baskin and Christina Sajous, Tony Vincent from The Voice, and several Rockettes and NY Knicks dancers. They were so supportive and helpful to each child involved. On the morning of the Talent Show, Alicia was then asked to go on the morning news with Mark Hoppus from blink 182 to promote the Show. She gave a preview of her performance, which was the song, "Not For the Life of Me" from "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Darryl McDaniel of Run DMC told Alicia she could, "Leave Radio City and march right up to Broadway, because that's where she belonged!!"
Later that night, she earned a standing ovation on the stage many performers only dream about.
The icing on the cake for all of this was on the night of the performance. All of her doctors including Orrin Devinsky, Jim Riviello, Howard Weiner and David Harter were able to see Alicia sing for the first time. Also joining our "New York family" was Cynthia Wartanian from FACES, one of Alicia's biggest fans, Ameeta Grover from NYU Epilepsy, and of course, Joseph, whom without this never would have happened.
Following the Talent Show, we were approached by the Knicks who wanted to present Alicia with The Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award at a Knicks game later in the season. This tribute is awarded to honor local heroes who have made a significant difference in the lives of others.
For the fourth consecutive year, Alicia is working hard again this year to give back to the epilepsy community in her efforts of hosting a fundraiser, Alicia & Friends 4. Alicia and her very talented friends, both young and old, will hit center stage in November for a night filled with song. To date, Alicia has raised over $32,000, with $12,000 to FACES since last May.
Alicia described the Garden of Dreams event as "A dream come true....and I met so many nice friends." Perfectly put.