John Beltzer, Founder of Songs of Love: I’m doing what I love and doing it for a good purpose. That is trying to bring a smile to the face of a child. I like to write a lot of different songs. I’ve been writing songs since I’ve been 16 and back in February of 1996 I was walking down the street. I had this incredible epiphany, just this idea pops into my head to create personalized songs for seriously ill children. Then I thought, “When they go through these tough times, how incredible would it be for them to hear a song that’s all about them?” I thought it would be a great way to help boost their self-esteem – To make them forget about their illness for a while. The organization is named after a song that my fraternal twin brother Julio wrote. Two months before he died, he wrote this beautiful ballad called “songs of love” and that’s the name of the organization. Songs of love is a national non-profit organization that provides fully-produced personalized songs for children and teens who are chronically and terminally ill, free-of-charge.
Songs of love basically highlights each child’s beauty and spirit. It highlights what they love in their lives. We don’t talk about their illness. These kids are going through so much, the pain, fear and trauma of hospitalization or whatever illnesses they’re going through. We reflect back to them their healthy cells in a very powerful way through a song that lasts forever.
Jhane Richards, Kamari’s Mother: Kamari has cerebral palsy – he has hydrocephalus which is fluid in his brain. He has a VA shunt and he also has asthma. I had him when I was very young, I was 17, and it was a big step to take on. I’ve learned to pick myself back up. I‘m following the footsteps of my mom a lot. My mom is strong and she’s been strong with me, my sister and my brother our whole lives. She’s taught me how to be a mom to my son. Kamari is my son and nothing is going to break me. He’s an amazing kid. My son expresses himself a lot though music. He really enjoys music. He likes to dance and he memorizes songs. I think the “beat” is what gets him.
John: Kamari’s into hip-hop, he likes going out to eat, he loves to sing, he likes art and music. He’s always smiling and laughing unless he’s hungry, that’s when he gets very cranky. His personality summed up in one word is unique. We put together this song of love just for him.
Jhane Richards: I like when (John) included that “he shines a light, he’s bright” because he does. He’s very bright, his smile is bright, his eyes are bright. He’s just a bright kid! So the song overall to me was just like, perfect – it was perfect for him because it’s really him. I really think it’s a great way to reach out to kids, especially kids with special needs because I feel like they need something to make them feel special. It allows a kid to express themselves while also just talking about them you know? everything is about them! “it’s all about me” that’s exciting to me, you know? I love this song and I can’t wait to play it in my car. He listens to it with me. I’m going to try to get it on my phone. I just can’t wait until he memorizes it because I know he will.
John: Anything that helps to bring joy to that child, it promotes positive chemical changes in the brain. When you’re happy and you’re smiling, the brain releases endorphins and we feel that that certainly helps in the healing process. About four months ago we reached 31,000 children. 31,000 individual, fully-produced personalized songs and by 2023 we’d like to be helping 7,000 kids a year. We’ve gotten an incredible reaction from parents and that really inspires us to keep doing what we do.