HomeEntertainmentNeshaminy Interact Club helps child’s Disney dream come true

Neshaminy Interact Club helps child’s Disney dream come true

Thanks to the Neshaminy’s Got Talent fundraiser, Sunshine Foundation can send Aaidyn, 5, to Florida

A magical trip: Aaidyn, 5, who has level 3 severe autism, is going to Disney World thanks to the efforts of the Neshaminy Interact Club. Submitted Photo

From a kazoo performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to a ukulele solo and a high-speed Rubik’s Cube solve, local teens showcased a variety of skills during the annual Neshaminy’s Got Talent, all for a good cause.

Hosted annually by the Neshaminy High School Interact Club, an international service-learning organization affiliated with Rotary, the talent show raises funds to help Sunshine Foundation answer the dreams of children with lifelong, severe illness and conditions (spina bifida, cerebral palsy, level 3 severe autism, Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, severe epilepsy, Sickle Cell Disease, blindness, deafness and others), who come from income-limited families. 

Thanks to the efforts of the NHS Interact Club, Aaidyn Butcher, 5, who is diagnosed with level 3 severe autism and developmental delays, and his family are going to enjoy a fully-funded trip to Walt Disney World, where he’ll get to meet characters like Mickey, Minnie and, his favorite, Rex from Toy Story

His mom said, “This would be his first trip to another state and flying on a plane! Disney will be exciting for him and help stimulate his sensory and motor skills.”

Aaidyn, along with three past “dreamers” who enjoyed experiences of a lifetime thanks to Neshaminy’s Got Talent proceeds, was on hand for the show, held on April 18, and had a blast getting to run around on stage. 

According to Suzi Drake, NHS Interact Club adviser since 2001, there was a bit of franticness mere hours before showtime, when several acts pulled out at the last minute. Thinking fast, senior leaders of the club rallied a few football players to perform a patriotic song and the judges to do a skit, with both acts serving as filler and not eligible for awards. 

“I think one of the kids said it best: ‘It was chaotic, but fun.’ It harkened back to the early days, when we first started doing these talent shows. It’s not about being a precise, polished event. It’s about coming out, having a good time for an awesome cause,” said Drake.

Miriam Cakir and Brooke Floyd, also known as the Kazoo Duo, earned first place for their performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” on kazoos. Tied for second place was Vivienne Evans, who performed a heartfelt original song on the ukulele, and Arifa Akhundova, who presented a dance that highlighted the cultural richness of Azerbaijan. Third place went to Samantha Orleski, who showed off piano and vocal skills with the song “Vampire.” 

The People’s Choice winner was the Kazoo Duo and the runner-up was Levi VanHoose, who did a soulful rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Showing their skills: Neshaminy’s Got Talent featured singing, dancing, a kazoo performance and more. Submitted Photo

Neshaminy’s Got Talent, formerly Neshaminy Idol, began nearly two decades ago when Interact members wanted to do something to help tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia. Several talent show participants — including Langhorne’s Catie Turner — eventually competed on American Idol

Ultimately, said Drake, Neshaminy’s Got Talent gives students who maybe don’t have the time to commit to theater or choir the chance to show their stuff, while simultaneously supporting a meaningful initiative. 

Aaidyn is the eighth client of Sunshine Foundation whose dream the NHS Interact Club — along with partners Comcast, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Gannon Insurance Agency, Feasterville Business Association, Penn Community Bank, Ungarino Family, Joanne Robb The French Realtor, and the Rotary Clubs of Feasterville and Langhorne — has funded. In fact, the club’s work was so successful this year, that $1,500 is already secured for a ninth child’s dream. 

Sunshine Foundation answers various types of dreams, from shopping sprees and new technology to aquarium visits and bedroom makeovers. However, the most popular request is a vacation to Disney World, a trip that can’t be accommodated by families alone due to expensive hospital bills and other financial constraints. For those who travel to Disney, they stay at Sunshine Foundation’s Dream Village, a fairy tale resort located in the heart of central Florida theme parks that offers a swimming pool, playground and miniature golf course, all specially designed to be accessible for wheelchairs and other special needs. 

The foundation was launched in 1976 by the late Bill Sample, a Philadelphia Police officer who was assigned to a local children’s hospital, where he encountered kids with serious illnesses. After seeing firsthand the financial and emotional stress on their families, he decided to make a difference. Sunshine Foundation is unique in that it doesn’t require a life-threatening or critical diagnosis like other wish-granting organizations.

Currently, Kate Sample is keeping the legacy of her husband alive as president of Sunshine Foundation, which is headquartered in Southampton and has answered the dreams of 42,500 children nationwide since its inception. Despite having a lot on her plate, she can regularly be found at the NHS Interact Club’s fundraising events.

“I said to the kids, ‘This is like having Steve Jobs coming to our event,’ ” said Drake. “She just really appreciates what the kids do and they always have a good time.”

The work of the NHS Interact Club goes far beyond Neshaminy’s Got Talent and is ongoing throughout the year. Students make fleece blankets for homeless shelters, bake holiday cookies that are included in baskets for families in need, create Valentine’s Day projects for the district’s youngest students and participate in TMA Bucks’ Seatbelt Safety Challenge, just to name a few examples. 

“We’re always doing. And if there’s a need, we fill it. We figure it out,” said Drake.

To be an active member, students must pay a $10 fee (this helps fund the club’s various initiatives) and participate in at least four activities. But usually, there’s high interest in doing more than the minimum. 

“Neshaminy does not have a community service requirement. Other school districts force the kids to do good things. Our kids want to do them,” said Drake. “The vast majority are here because they’ve been raised to realize that not everybody has what they have, and part of being a member of society is helping out. It’s not always about the money. It’s about the service. It’s about doing the small things and having awareness that those small things can make a big difference.”

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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