By MIKE CHAIKEN
On Sunday, entertainment will prove to be the ticket to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
And the reigning Miss Forestville, Jillian Duffy, will be among the performers that night.
The role on stage is an appropriate one for Duffy, who herself, was once helped by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She will be joined by several other “Wish Kids” on the stage in the fund raiser that will be held at the Infinity Hall in Hartford on Sunday, June 14 from 3 to 5 p.m.
Dubbed “As Long As I’m Singing,” the event was organized by Michael Dominick, community and media relations manager at Make-A-Wish Connecticut. Besides his role on the staff of Make-A-Wish, Dominick also is a local singer.
“I have been performing various musical productions as benefits for Make-A-Wish since I was 18 years old, from Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin re-enactments to Broadway reviews to full-scale musicals,” explained Dominick. “I wanted to try something new though, where we would not only have the chance to involve Wish Kids in the performance, but be able to tell their story. This concert allowed us to create a ‘variety show’ type program, where we’ll have a chance to speak to our musical guests in front of the audience, and have a chance to share with the audience the impact a wish can have on a child and on an entire family.”
When Jillian, who is one of those Wish Kids, was approached by the organization to participate in this benefit, she knew she wanted to help out. “Once I became a Wish Kid and learned more about the organization I knew that I wanted to become more involved and give back to the organization,” said Jillian. “Over the past few years, I have organized a toy drive, appeared in a promotional video, collected letters to Santa for the ‘Believe’ campaign with Macy’s, and was interviewed on WVIT during the Miles for Smiles Campaign. I was excited and honored that the organizers thought of me to perform in this show.”
The response from the Wish Kids such as Jillian, said Patrick was ”great. All of the Wish Kids that are part of this concert have been supporting Make-A-Wish since the day their wish was granted. From coming to events, taking part in public speaking and other media/promotion opportunities…they have all shown their passion for wanting to pay it forward and make another kid’s wish come true. So when we discovered their musical talents, we were excited to ask them to join the benefit.”
“We have five Wish Kids. Four from Connecticut (Jillian Duffy, Alyssa Casson, Katie Vandrilla, and Brian Jermainne). The fifth is my younger brother Matthew, who was granted a wish by the Philadelphia chapter in 1992. His wish was to go to Walt Disney World. Now 17 years cancer free, I am honored that he’s going to come up to Connecticut and be part of this event.”
“It was important to include (the Wish Kids) so that we can not only support this great cause, but also have the chance to share with our audience just what Make-A-Wish truly is,” said Patrick. “It’s more than a trip, or a room makeover, or even meeting someone famous. It’s a lifelong experience that served as a light at the end of the tunnel during difficult times, and will serve as an inspiring memory for years to come. We can share this with our supporters, but when a Wish Kid who has been through that journey shares their feelings and experiences, it becomes real.”
“I believe that the audience will be excited to see Wish Kids in the performance and see them healthy and happy,” said Jillian. “My hope is that the show is successful in raising money for the organization so that they can continue to grant more wishes to children with life threatening illnesses.”
In addition to the Wish Kids on stage, said Patrick, “We also have the incredibly talented Victoria Clougher, a close friend and wonderful singer, who will be joining us for a few numbers as well. Victoria and I did a small performance together last year for Make-A-Wish and were eager to work together again. My wife might join us for a duet, too. And, of course, we have a very talented band to thank for their dedication to this event. All of them have donated their time and talents to make this a great show and a great event for Make-A-Wish. Fritz Hansen is our band leader and sax player, joined by Joey D’Alessio on bass, Bob Nolte on drums, Robby Schwartz on piano, Chris Love on guitar, John Pearson on trumpet, and Zac Whitlock on trombone.”
As for the style of music that night, Patrick said, “My style of performing is traditionally big band/swing. I’ll be doing numbers from Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, etc. There will also be a few modern numbers in there from Michael Buble, Billy Joel, and others. The Wish Kids will be performing songs that come from a variety of genres – Jillian will be treating us to performances from the American Broadway stage, as will Katie. Alyssa will perform a song by Christina Aguilera that has long served as an inspiration to her, and Brian will be performing a song he wrote himself, inspired by his wish, in fact.”
For her contribution to the show, Jillian said she will be singing two songs. “I had been a dancer since I was 3, but had to stop due to a persistent foot injury. I started studying voice a little over a year ago, which allows me to continue to perform. I will be singing ‘On My Own’ and ‘Man of La Mancha.’ Both of these songs are powerful belts that show empowerment and my range and since they are both Broadway songs they allow me to perform for the audience, which is something that I love to do.”
As noted, Jillian is more than just an advocate of Make-A-Wish but she is an example of what the organization does.
A cancer survivor, Jillian explained, “I first learned about the Make-A-Wish organization through my oncologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center soon after I was diagnosed with leukemia.”
When she was offered the help of Make-A-Wish, she said she took the opportunity because, “I knew that my treatment was going to be long and hard and having ‘my wish’ to look forward to was like a light at the end of the tunnel. It made the treatment a little more tolerable. “
For her wish, Jillian said, she wanted “to go on a family vacation to Maui, Hawaii. I had realized that I was not the only one who had struggled through this, it was my family as well. I waited until my treatment was over so we could relax and spend time with as a family without having to worry about the next treatment or medication that I would have to take.”
Jillian said the experience helped her and her family because “It gave us something to look forward to during my 2 1/2 years of treatment. This experience was a once of a lifetime experience that I was fortunate enough to have and to share with my family. I am thankful for the memories that I was able to make while on my wish trip.”
Patrick said, “When we first met Jillian after her wish had been granted, her charisma showed itself immediately. We knew she would be a wonderful spokesperson for our organization. As we worked together on various projects over the past year or two (public speaking, videos, television interviews), we spoke about some of her other passions, hobbies, and talents. Once we learned of her vocal talents, it was the perfect fit to ask her to come represent Make-A-Wish, share her story, share her talent, and help us make another wish come true.”
“People should come out to this benefit to enjoy performances from talented “Wish Kids” and Michael Dominick,” said Jillian. “Those in attendance will also have the satisfaction of helping such an amazing organization.”
Besides attending the show, Jillian also asked people to help Make-A-Wish in other ways.
“Make-A-Wish is a completely voluntary organization. All wishes are funded through donations and money raised through the many events held annually. In order to be able to continue granting wishes as well as increase the number of wishes granted in Connecticut, it is important to gain awareness and support for this amazing organization,” said Jillian.
Patrick said, “Make-A-Wish is a very special organization to me personally, with my brother being a Wish Kid. But it’s an incredible organization to support regardless of whether or not you’ve known someone who experienced the power of a wish. We’ve seen thousands of kids here in Connecticut and across the country experience that hope, strength and joy. We’ve heard first-hand from families that the Wish was a big part of the healing process, the will to fight, the light at the end of the tunnel as I shared before. As one Wish Parent shared with us, ‘The doctors treat the child’s medical condition, but Make-A-Wish treats the hearts and souls of the entire family.’ That always stuck with all of us at Make-A-Wish and we keep that in our mind with every wish we grant.”
Tickets for “As Long As I’m Singing,” which will be held Sunday, June 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Infinity Hall, 32 Front St., Hartford are $25 for adults, and $15 for children.
For tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/michael-patrick-dominick-as-long-as-im-singing-tickets-15222958278. You can also go to that web address to make a donation to Make-A-Wish.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN