Last April, Shelly Rae Zinniel and her daughter, Rachelle, were invited to participate in a music video, that when released was in part to help launch a new social network.
On Sunday, Oct. 13, the pair was invited again for the premier launch party in Victoria to see the finishing touches of the video and to get a glimpse at the first-ever social network dedicated to caregivers of special needs children.
Michael Boylan, a Minnesota father who has devoted his life to caring for his special needs child, wrote a song called Angel Child, and made a music video portraying a-day-in-the-life of caregivers and children with special needs.
The music video was filmed at St. Olaf College with the full orchestra and choir, along with the help of caregivers and special needs children in April. Six months later, the Zinniels were able to take a peek at the fruits of their labor when a launch party was held to introduce the network going live Nov. 1.
For Shelly Rae, the network is there to bring everyone together as a family with one voice.
The network, she said, will provide a community of emotional support, respite, encouragement, friendship and inspiration for like-minded people who share a common bond––parents and related caregivers of special-needs children with diabetes, autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, epilepsy, Down syndrome, or any other cognitive or physical diagnosis, to provide a forum of hope, empathy and information sharing via the network.
“As caregivers of special needs children, our priorities can be different because our children are all different and unique,” Shelly Rae explained. “But at the core, all caregivers of special needs children have commonalities no matter what the diagnosis is, which is what makes this network so inspiring. We still want foundations and organization that give tips and advice, but there is so much more to our experience than that.”
Rachelle, 11, is autistic with bilateral hearing loss due to Enlarged Vestibular Aqueducts Syndrome (EVA).
According to Michael Boylan, who wrote Angel Child, (the anthem for the network, which he describes as similar to “We are the World,”) the Reach For Me network that he founded is the first nationwide network designed just for parents and related caregivers of special-needs children. The network is designed to be a community of caregivers with a desire to help one another by sharing stories, personal experiences, challenges and information, creating a trusted blanket of emotional support, empowerment, friendship and inspiration.
Boylan added that the network was designed for caregivers of special-needs children who understand the journey because they live it, inspiring one another to move forward during the sometimes ultra-challenging times and offering a community of empathy, respect and support.
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Boylans goal, he said, is to have one million members joining within the first year and five million members in the first five years. Boylan said he hopes to some day soon be recognized by the White House as an organization with a voice and representation in Washington.
“We’ve already seen an extremely powerful reaction with what we’ve put forth and we are using music and emotion to get the word out,” Boylan added.
What’s important, Shelly Rae said, is that the network is there when and if you want or need it.
“It is always nice to have something even if at the moment you don’t feel like you need or want it,” she said.
The Reach For Me network can be accessed by going to www.reachforme.com. Information on how to become a member or how to download the song or music video is also available on the website.