Archive for July, 2007

This is the kind of press Clay Aiken should be getting instead of, you know, that other stuff…

Caregiving: Clay Aiken to expand camps


ALBANY, N.Y., July 31 (UPI) — Long before appearing on Fox’s “American Idol” in 2003, Clay Aiken had a dream that did not involve being a pop star.

As a YMCA camp counselor, it saddened him that children with developmental disabilities had to be turned away from not only the fun of camp, but from the experience of being with other children, and he promised himself that this was something he would try to change.

“American Idol,” several hit tours and 4.3 million album sales later, the pop star announced earlier this month that his dream is becoming a reality with the goal of raising $1 million to expand the Bubel/Aiken Foundation’s “Let ALL Play” initiative so that 100 camps in 2008 would become inclusive to children with special needs.

It’s simple concept really, but all too often, special needs children are excluded from everyday activities like swimming, arts and crafts, games, community service and physical fitness programs.

“It’s an ambitious goal and it will be a challenge — 100 camps and $1 million dollars in less than one year — but we are about 20 percent of the way to that goal,” Jerry Aiken, executive director of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, told UPI’s Caregiving. “But we also have a fan base with a tremendous amount of experience and strong passion for this issue — we have close to 1,000 volunteers — working with the foundation and we have been listening to them and they have some great ideas.”

Jerry Aiken, Clay Aiken’s uncle on his mother’s side, held senior level positions at Nortel Networks, TRW and Fujitsu Network Communications, before coming to the foundation in May.

“I was told of a parent with a child with special needs and on the first day of camp the parent is coaxing the child to get out of the car and give camp a try, but a couple of days later the child can’t wait to get to camp and is running inside — when you hear these stories you see the value — the self-worth element — of inclusion,” said Jerry Aiken.

“There was a 8-year-old child with autism, who was diagnosed at age 2 and he attended a YMCA camp this summer — his vocabulary before the camp was about two words and after attending camp it jumped to 11 words — that’s huge.”

There are several things currently in the works to raise funds, including working with a number of companies to gain sponsorship and there will be a celebrity version of the TV show on Fox’s “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader” that may offer us some opportunities as well, according to Jerry Aiken.

In addition, Jerry Aiken, a golfer, is working toward a golf tournament tentatively scheduled in Florida this year or in early 2008.

“I play golf and I’ve encouraged Clay to take it up, but golf takes a commitment and at the moment he doesn’t have the time for golf, but he would be at the golf tournament,” Jerry Aiken said.

The foundation is working with established camp programs such as the YMCA or other qualified American Camp Association members by providing financial support plus a detailed camp manual, training and ongoing assistance — most of the funds that we raise cover training, additional counselors, equipment/supplies as well as a camp scholarships if required, according to Jerry Aiken.

“We stress to the camps they should not significantly change their program; the ‘Let’s ALL Play’ manual and the training is about developing the camp team to provide a typical camp experience.”

There is tug of war in pedagogy and psychological circles on how to best challenge the special needs child and the typical child so both experience optional challenges, according to Dr. Larry Lachman, a licensed clinical psychologist at Chapman University in Monterey, Calif.

“If either the special needs child, or the typical child does not get enough stimulation, it won’t work,” Lachman told UPI’s Caregiving.

“Assuming the staff/counselors are trained in special needs, that the design of the program is appropriate and the typical children have the emotional maturity so they do not tease, this can be a highly beneficial experience and broaden the skill sets of both sets of children — it sets the bar higher for all the children and opens everyone’s eye to seeing something from a different point of view.”

I saw things from a different point of view after I heard Clay Aiken in an interview several years ago with Diane Sawyer of ABC News. He said what made him passionate about being a special education teacher was the challenge — the puzzle — and how to figure out ways to help unlock the world so that a special needs child could connect and function better.

At the time, I was experiencing the “distancing” of friends of mine and friends of my father who treated the news of my father’s Alzheimer’s disease as if it was leprosy. I never heard from them again.

But thinking about dementia as a challenge, as a puzzle that can be solved, bit by bit, instead of giving up, made a big difference for me. It’s certainly not the message I got from traditional healthcare.

So I understand why Clay Aiken’s fan base is more than just the usual pop star fan base of teens — many of his fans are caregivers — who appreciate the message of inclusion.

In an era when many men in their 20s are only passionate about video games or have nothing else on their minds than perfecting their backhand, Clay Aiken talking about inclusion of those with special needs is enormously attractive to women of all ages, so I can understand why his fans are so devoted and why the foundation has such ambitious plans.

Alex Cukan is an award-winning journalist, but she has also been a caregiver since she was a teenager. UPI welcomes comments and questions about this column.)

(e-mail: parentcaregiving@gmail.com)

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

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    Found this in my Google alerts today – nice to know they are FINALLY admitting it!  Read on, McDuffs!


    At TV’s summer press tour, Nigel Lythgoe admits that last season suffered by focusing more on famous mentors than on contestants — and says the show can learn from ”So You Think You Can Dance”


    By Tanner Stransky

    At Sunday’s TCA press tour panel for Fox’s summer hit So You Think You Can Dance, a lively discussion about what makes certain finalists on the dancing show stand out from the rest turned into a much more interesting back-and-forth about what Dance can teach its bigger — and much more powerful, in terms of ratings — older brother, American Idol. Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of both shows who also serves as a sharp-tongued judge on Dance, said there’s plenty — and that we should all expect some changes on Idol next season. ”We realized we made mistakes on Idol last season,” he said. ”We were so engrossed with the mentors and didn’t really focus on the Melinda Doolittles of the show. We didn’t know them as much as the Kellie Picklers of last season.”


    Lythgoe is referring to the marked difference in the ways the two programs showcase their contestants: In recent seasons, Idol has tended to shun details about its singers to instead focus on the big-name stars who come to the show to perform and work with the contestants, especially in later episodes. Dance, however, spends quite a bit of its airtime featuring the back-stories of its dancers and their struggles to get on the show.


    ”We’re all attached to them a little more,” Lythgoe said about Dance‘s focus on its contestants’ lives. ”I think that’s affected us all a little bit more. There are little emotional hooks that come out.” As for an Idol tune-up plan for season 7, Lythgoe revealed the production team is always looking to ”tinker with the program,” adding that ultimately he’d like to see the Idol contestants be as strong as his prized top 10 on So You Think You Can Dance.


    And what of Sanjaya? Of course, the faux-hawked menace snuck his way into the discussion. Speaking about the top 10 dancers seated behind him on stage, Lythgoe said: ”There isn’t a Sanjaya here, although I do think Sanjaya helped the last season of Idol. I think there’s enough talent with enough great stories to warrant the fact that we are basing it on their talent. No one needs to alter their hair on this program.”


    Pasted from <http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20047678,00.html>



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Ok, I spent all that $$$ last Friday on Manilow tickets but I didn’t think the seats were too grand. So, I went back to the site this past weekend and they had regular FLOOR SEATS with no added extras on sale for $20 more. My concert buddy suggested I contact the fan club and see if I could exchange my seats and they were very happy to oblige.

What does that mean?

I now have two tickets IN THE FREAKIN’ 4TH ROW (they’re not center but who cares – I can see him spit from there!)!!!!!!

This may be the closest I ever get to the MAN and I am one very happy camper! That made my month!

And, thus, I am still certifiably insane…but what a way to go!

Carry on!

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…because I just spent TWO HUNDRED & THIRTY hard earned DOLLARS on a BARRY MANILOW ticket for his only New England appearance in September!!!!

In fact, it’s only one of two concerts he’s giving on the east coast this fall and it wasn’t even the MOST expensive ticket!  Those were FOUR HUNDRED AND TEN DOLLARS!

Only for Barry, my friends, because he’s not getting any younger and this might be my last chance to see him live (it’s my ninth, overall).

I wonder if I’ll do this much for Clay or any of the other IDOLS in 30 years or so…

Carry on while I get carried away in a straight jacket…


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There once was an entertainer who took himself seriously when others did not. He was a professed Christian, didn’t have a great sense of style, appeared often on a late night talk show and was thought to be gay. He sang songs that were considered “old fashioned” and came to fame as the result of being on a popular television show. Most folks thought he was a joke and subsequently became the butt of many of them.


His name? Herbert Khaury, aka Tiny Tim.


Sound familiar?


In every generation a performer comes along and, through no fault of his or her own, seems to rub the majority of the people the wrong way. As I write this, it appears to be Clay Aiken’s turn as America’s whipping boy. On Conan O’Brien’s Late Night Show a mere mention of his name sends the audience howling. Even Dan Abrams from MSNBC couldn’t resist making him the “Loser of the Day” recently.


My question is – what exactly has Clay done to deserve all of this negative attention?


Or, more exactly, whose ego did he encroach on to warrant a bull’s eye on both his career and personal life?


The obvious difference between Clay and Mr. Tim is that Clay HAS legitimate musical talent, when he is using his voice properly. That alone, coupled with his great run on American Idol 2 should have given him a big boost on the way to a music career. In actuality, it did – until January of 2006 when all hell broke loose (that date is significant and I will revisit it in the next installment). Since then the hits to both his private life and performing career just keep on coming, with extremely damaging results. This kid can’t seem catch a break right now and something needs to be done to turn this Titanic around or his professional credentials will be worthless.


The general public, knowing no better, seems to have latched on to the premise that it is “hip” to hate Clay. They dismiss any good that he is trying to achieve while not stopping their relentless pursuit to drive him into obscurity. So much hatred turned on to one young man who simply entered a reality TV contest at the urging of others and was able to capture the musical hearts of many. Like that was a crime or something.


Maybe it was.


Maybe he just seemed too good to be true. No one could be that wholesome and self effacing. There had to be a big flaw lurking somewhere.


Whether there really is or not is irrelevant now – the damage is done and his reputation has taken more major blows than it needed to. The question remains – can Clay’s professional and private lives be repaired so that he can have a credible and successful career in music or television? Moreover, can the general public accept a “new and improved” Clay Aiken?


Before we can answer those questions, we need to examine the forces in Clay’s life that have helped to create this quicksand that he seems to be sunk into. In my next installment, I will put forth my own observations and “conspiracy theories” on the subject while in a third and final installment, make some suggestions on how Clay could rise from the ashes and reinvent himself. He may be down at the present moment, but he is in no way out of this game yet.


BTW, each one of my titles is a take off on a popular song of the past. See if you can figure it out and post your guess. I may not have fabulous prizes for the correct guesser but it should still be fun!


Carry on!




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He sure did and what a great performance! Check it out!

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Here’s a little something to watch after the grill has been turned off, the fireworks have been lit and the revelers have gone home — enjoy!

See you in New Hampshire, Clay!

Carry on!


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