Calgary mom raising funds to bring music therapy to public high school

A Calgary mom is raising money so teenagers can benefit from a program that’s changed her daughter’s life.

Christina Ryan dances with her daughter Emily Pitchers in 2016. Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald Photo

Annalise Klingbeil, Calgary Herald March 3, 2017

Christina Ryan’s 17-year-old daughter Emily has numerous medical conditions, including Down syndrome and epilepsy.

Emily doesn’t talk or walk, but during weekly sessions with Calgary-based JB Music Therapy, she giggles in delight, moves to the music and lets her personality shine.

“Music therapy gives Emily talents I didn’t even know she had,” said Ryan, a former Calgary Herald photojournalist.

“She loves to sing along with the music, to drum, to play instruments. If I hadn’t given her this choice, I wouldn’t have known. It gives her independence and allows her to grow and express herself.”

Two years ago, Emily moved from a school for the city’s most medically fragile students into a typical public high school, home to a small special education program that allows students with special needs to integrate with mainstream kids.

While the switch meant sociable Emily was surrounded by able-bodied teenagers her age, it also came with a shift in the programs offered.

That spurred Ryan on a quest to bring music therapy to Central Memorial High School, so special needs students like Emily can break out of their shells, learn new skills and be engaged.

Dylan Whitley, 16, who has been diagnosed with Autism and septo-optic dysplasia loves music. His keen ear, pitch perfect voice and talent for musical jingles keeps JB Music therapist Max Wood on his toes. Christina Ryan, Calgary Herald.

Ryan wants to raise $6,000 so JB Music Therapy staff can run programs for special needs students at the school for two years, beginning next year, after Emily has graduated from Grade 12.

The passionate mom has organized a ‘Life with Music’ fundraiser at the high school on March 10, to raise money for the cause.

“Not only will bringing music therapy in benefit our kids, it will also teach other students about what it’s like to be a music therapist,” Ryan said.

There are more than 600 certified music therapists across Canada, who use music to enhance the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of clients of all ages and abilities.

Shannon Robinson, the vice president of JB Music Therapy, applauded Ryan for wanting to ensure music is a part of the legacy her daughter leaves at Central Memorial.

“Funding can often be a challenge for things that aren’t already part of a curriculum, so it’s wonderful for her to take this on,” Robinson said.

“Christina is this amazing parent of an amazing child with special needs, and she just wants to ensure her child and all children that have special needs, or significant needs, or just have needs, that they’re supported in the same way any child is.”

Source Calgary Herald

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Friday, March 10, 2017, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM MST – Central Memorial High School. Limited seating available. Food and beverages available – cash only. 100% of all proceeds from admission and concession sales will fund the music therapy program.
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