Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bella & Ana: How the Christian Youth Theater Touches the Lives of Youth with Special Needs

In preparation for my upcoming fundraiser on July 30th for Kansas City's Christian Youth Theater HEART Program, I wanted to share some stories with you about what makes the HEART program so incredible. Both of these young ladies may have special needs, but they have thrived and been loved during their time with CYT.

Bella's Story

"Everything that Bella does, she always works hard and gives her best to."

So says Theresa DeBrevi, a parishioner of Holy Cross Catholic Church. “I think it’s inspiring to people because, if all of us did what she does, imagine what we could accomplish.” Bella was born with Down syndrome, but she doesn’t  let that stand in the way of anything she wants to accomplish — stardom included.

“One of our really big goals for Bella is her independence,” said DeBrevi. “If there’s something she can do herself,  then I like to see her do it.”

They enrolled her in CYT, a nondenominational program that teaches drama, dance and singing through camps and after-school class sessions. CYT appealed to the couple because it welcomes children with special needs; its HEART program is specifically designed to help them acclimate. When Bella made her acting debut (in Scrooge: The Musical), her dad and brother were in the audience. But DeBrevi had volunteered for greenroom duty, so she had to watch the opening number on a small remote television. As she squinted at the screen trying to pick her daughter out of the chorus, her phone buzzed. She checked a text message and smiled. 

“It’s from my husband,” she said. “Bella is singing.”

“Watching her flourish with this experience is a dream come true,” said DeBrevi. “She has made so many new  friendships, and it’s so nice to watch as she walks in (to CYT) and there’s a new child greeting her.”


Ana's Story

"There is a special plan for me, who once was an orphan without a name . . . "

In May 2011, Kansas City youth Ana Colliton appeared in Christian Youth Theater's production of Annie. Not only does she share a close name with the show, but her story is remarkably similar, too.

Ana was born in La Paz, Bolivia, a country second only to Haiti in poverty level. She was placed in an orphanage where extreme malnutrition and a congenital anomaly make it a miracle she survived. Ana made a connectionwith her would-be parents (visiting for an unrelated reason), and the parent-child bon was made, never to be broken.

Ana was born without an outer right ear. With only one ear, Ana has trouble hearing in a large or noisy group setting. This can cause sensory confusion that can lead to panic in this 8 year old girl. Due to this condition and malnutrition in the orphanage, Ana's ability to commuynicate was delayed. 

Although her hearing will never fully be restored, Ana is now able to hear better through the use of hearing aids and her ability to communicate improved dramatically through auditory/oral therapy.

Ana's family came to CYT because of the HEART program. After discussing Ana's special needs with program director Josie Strickler, Ana and her family were welcomed with open arms and the program has been blessed by Ana's spirit and accomplishments. 

When discussing the similarities of the show Annie and her own life, Ana always comes back to this idea: God has a special plan for her, a girl who began life as an orphan and played an orphan in the production of one of the best-loved children's musicals of all time. We all agree!


The HEART Program instills confidence in their youth. It's truly an incredible program. You can showy our support for these youth by making a purchase at Barnes & Noble from July 30th - August 3rd. Be sure to use our book fair ID# 10512580. You can also print out the voucher on this post or use the instructions below to show online.  Thank you so much for your support!


Online Shopping at BN.COM/bookfairs
Shop 7/30 through 8/3 to support our bookfair!

Bookfair ID#10512580


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Signed In To Your Existing Account?

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Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.