We'll all be hearing about a lot of voting in months to come, but this piece about voting has nothing to do with our current political situation. Instead, it is about an opportunity to support a wonderful cause with your vote -- one near and dear to the heart of one of my dear friends, Judy Winter.
Judy was named one of L'Oreal's "Women of Worth," one of ten women who advocate for specific charities. Judy's is the Eric RicStar Winter Music Therapy Camp, which Judy and her husband Dick started, in conjunction with Michigan State University's Community Music School.
Judy and I met years ago when she volunteered to write some articles for the magazine I edited at WKAR. She later was hired as an advertising salesperson for the magazine and went on to work for the station for a number of years after, continuing to volunteer for on-air pledge hosting after she left. And during those years -- and the decades since --- we have been good friends.
Friends who have laughed together, played together, had more than a few lunches and celebrated more than a few holidays in each others' company. When Rick had his surgery last winter, Judy was there with the lasagna. We've been through each others' serious illnesses, deaths of parents, and shed more than a few tears together. And yes, there have been good times, too; parties with our wonderful circle of friends as well as the beautiful wedding of Judy and Dick's daughter, Jenna.
These photos are some of my favorites from our friendship. Yes, L'Oreal took some lovely photos with a far better photographer or camera than any of these. You can see them on the Women of Worth website. But I like the ones here most of all. They are our story.
Judy left WKAR nineteen years ago, when Eric Winter was born with a challenging cerebral palsy diagnosis. I saw first-hand what parents who have an infant, then child, with special needs must deal with each and every day.
It's hard work. Back breaking work at times. Judy has the battle scars to show for it. She earned her stripes fighting for inclusion in the public schools, continually advocating for parents with children who have special needs. And she and Dick were wonderful parents to both Eric and his older sister Jenna, providing them with opportunities to enrich their lives.
One such opportunity for Eric was MSU's Community Music School, which offered music therapy classes. Eric loved music. I have many special memories of spending Christmas Eves with the Winters, Rick playing his guitar, Eric listening in rapt attention.
And smiling. A million dollar smile.
During Eric's life, Judy continued her role as a journalist, writing columns on special needs and eventually the book "Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs." She chose to be an advocate for special needs, through her writing and speaking at conferences and to groups. Her commitment has made those who know her (and no doubt those who have only read her work) more aware and sensitive to the challenges so many of us face. For Judy it's all about the ability, not the disability.
When Eric died at the age of twelve, Judy, Dick and MSU's Cindy Edgerton co-founded the Eric "RicStar" Winter Music Therapy Camp. It provides opportunities for immersion in musical expression for those of all ages. The camp was created to honor Eric's life and legacy and offers one-on-one support to nurture individual abilities while also focusing on inclusion. Many campers have returned year after year and funding provided by the Winters and others has made many scholarships available to ease the financial burden and give all an opportunity to participate, regardless of age.
At the end of the camp, the campers perform a concert for parents and guests. I've been to more than one of these and the smiles are like bottled sunshine.
More than 1,500 campers have attended the camp and more than $80,000 in financial aid has been given to make camp possible for the attendees. Volunteers and therapy animals abound. The camp serves as a reminder of music's lasting power to change lives.
When Judy was selected as one of L'Oreal's Women of Worth, the camp received $10,000, as did the charities of the other nine finalists. By voting (and you can vote daily for the next few weeks) one of these groups will receive an additional $25,000. I think you can guess what I'm voting for.
So, please check out the site HERE and I hope you'll vote for Judy and RicStar's Camp. (The direct link to vote for Judy is HERE!) You can vote daily throughout the voting period, which continues for the next few weeks. Voting instructions are at the site.
And, if you are interested in learning more about the camp for you, a family member or a friend, please check it out HERE. Camp takes place every June at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Help Christmas come early for RicStar's Camp! Vote early and often!'
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