Darryl McDaniels is on a mission to give back.
Better known as one of the founding members of the pioneering hip-hop group Run-D.M.C., McDaniels is also a devoted philanthropist. In addition to his work with his Camp Felix summer camp, McDaniels is involved with the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
Since 2006, the Madison Square Garden Company charity has created thousands of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that have brought joy and happiness to more than 250,000 children in need and their families through hundreds of events each year.
One such event is its annual Talent Show, where children from the New York area are mentored by members of the Knicks, Rangers, Liberty and Rockettes, among many celebrity entertainers, culminating with a performance at Radio City Music Hall.
With the Talent Show coming up on June 17, McDaniels talks about his own life and the great accomplishments of Garden of Dreams.
Q: How did you get involved in Garden of Dreams?
A: As an adult, I found out I was adopted and soon realized there were kids out there who weren’t as lucky as I was, to have been taken out of the foster care system at a young age and placed into a loving family. So I decided to do something. I helped found The Felix Organization/Adoptees For Children to enrich the lives of children growing up without parents, and Camp Felix, which provides foster children with outdoor summer experiences. But I soon realized that wasn’t enough and perhaps I could be a part of some other wonderful organizations that were helping great kids who find themselves in not-so-great-circumstances. In 2009, I became aware of the Garden of Dreams Foundation and participated in the 2010 Talent Show. I was really impressed and I thought it was so important that an organization keeps in touch with the children that it serves, and Garden of Dreams prides itself on building lasting relationships. In August 2011, I joined the Garden of Dreams Foundation Board, and in 2012, I was asked to be the creative director of the Talent Show, a position that allows me to work with these amazing children year in and year out.
Q: How do you choose the talent who appears on stage at Radio City?
A: The Garden of Dreams Foundation partners with 22 organizations throughout the year to create unique and unforgettable events and programs that brighten the lives of children and their families. Each year, we reach out to all 22 of our partner organizations, and children from those organizations come to an audition. More than 100 children will perform in the 2014 Garden of Dreams Talent Show.
Q: What are some of the adversities these children have endured?
A: The children that perform in the Garden of Dreams Talent Show have all faced different types of obstacles, including illness, homelessness, poverty, foster care issues or tragedy. The mission of Garden of Dreams is to make dreams come true for children facing obstacles, and the opportunity to perform on the Great Stage at Radio City is just one of the many dreams the Foundation brings to life.
Q: What is the process the children go throughout to get to Radio City?
A: It all begins with auditions! Once the line-up is confirmed, we hold rehearsals at Radio City to help the kids prepare for their stage debut. We have an onstage dress rehearsal about a week before the big show so that the kids can get a feel for the size of the stage and the theater. On the day of the show, we do a run-through in the afternoon and then the kids get to relax a little before they hit the stage.
Q: Who were the mentors who helped the talent during the rehearsals?
A: Over the years, the children have been able to work with a variety of celebrity mentors, from Mindless Behavior to The Strokes. This year, the kids have worked with Ryan McCartan, Essence Carson, Damaris Lewis, the Rockettes, the Knicks City Dancers and myself.
Q: What’s the next stage for these children after the show?
A: The Garden of Dreams Foundation has an ongoing relationship with all of the children it serves, including the Talent Show participants. Throughout the year, they may go to various concerts at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall or the Beacon Theatre where they may get to meet their favorite artists. Each year, the Talent Show features a performance by the alumni choir, which is made up of past Talent Show performers. Additionally, our Talent Show participants are regularly invited to sing the national anthem at Knicks, Rangers and Liberty games and to perform at halftime. This year, the Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Finals, so we’re holding a viewing party for our kids to cheer them on! Players from both teams send messages of support to the kids and various alumni come to the Talent Show each year.
Q: Have you ever seen any child go on to do bigger things in entertainment?
A: Our kids have been inspired by the Talent Show to go on to college and study music or performance art, among other things. The biggest legacy of the Talent Show is the confidence and self-esteem it builds in the kids who participate. We’ve seen kids who have come out of their shell socially and have seen their grades improve after the Talent Show. One of the most important things is that the Talent Show offers an opportunity for kids to meet and connect with other children who are facing similar obstacles.
Q: How can we support the Garden of Dreams?
A: Come to the show! The best thing we can do is fill all 6,000 seats at Radio City and support these amazing performers. It’s June 17 at 7 p.m. at Radio City Music Hall and free and open to the public!
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