Retiring Clay Aiken Fan Chooses Special 'Watch'

MAKING A DIFFERENCE - Graphic by Fountaindawg with photos by Irishbookgal and farouche links to 'Memories of 2010, Part 4' on YouTube. The montage by LovesClaysVoice provides an overview of the National Inclusion Project's 2010 Champions Gala Benefit.

Rhode Island Fan

Teacher's Retirement Benefits NIP
Today I smile and take a step

Towards something I've not known before

The sun came out so Let's All Play

A world awaits outside the door

I've been so tired sitting out

While others laugh and sing and dance

It's awfully lonely by myself

But now at last I'll have my chance.

I tried so hard to understand

Just why it had to be this way

Now life looks good and I can't wait

Inclusion breaks, a perfect day!

Just as Clay Aiken fans celebrate the singer's incredible pipes and his amazing musical performances, they long ago adopted his goal to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Clay Nation is often first in line to support the National Inclusion Project, a foundation the singer co-founded with Diane Bubel in 2003. In the past eight years, CA fans have followed the UNICEF Ambassador's lead, donating to the health and educational concerns of children around the world.

Let's All Play Camps open doors for All children to experience life.

RI Teacher Makes a Difference

Earlier this month, Rhode Island Fan, a retiring elementary reading specialist of 25 years, took a remarkable step toward making a difference. When asked her preference for a retirement gift, she suggested a donation be made to the National Inclusion Project with the money.

Below is RIF's story shared with friends on a Clay Aiken message board.

I feel that yesterday I made a difference in some people's opinions of Clay and his fans. It was my retirement party given by my fellow teachers. I had asked for no gift, but instead wanted them to make a donation to National Inclusion Project for me.

When they presented it (with "Invisible" playing in the background), there was a bit of giggling in the room. Teachers know what a fan I am, and they do tease just a bit.

The person presenting the donation had made a certificate for me, and she explained what the National Inclusion Project is about. When she read Clay Aiken's name, there were giggles; but, as she read on, the group really listened and became serious.

After she finished, I told them more about the NIP, about Wrapping for Inclusion, the Gala (which I am attending in October!). As they listened, the whole mood of the group changed. They were mighty impressed and some wanted to help with the wrapping.

We are a school that really believes in inclusion, and it works beautifully. Frequently, we get students from other schools in the district because things weren't working for the kids. We have two beautiful Downs Syndrome students who are fully included. It's really wonderful.

I feel I accomplished two things. I helped the National Inclusion Project just a bit with the donation, and I let people know more about the real Clay Aiken.

It doesn't happen all at once (with including kids or with what people know about Clay), but it is happening. We have to keep at it.

Today, I received a letter from Aron Hall, the Project's director of services, telling me that a donation was made in my honor and saying, "Thank you for the many years that you dedicated teaching children."

That meant a lot to me. Now that I am retiring, I will have more time to spend supporting Clay and the National Inclusion Project. "Both are so worth my time and bring me so much satisfaction.

RIF and her husband plan to drive to the annual Gala in October, her first ever! Other retirement activities include tutoring, visiting her daughters and their families, leading professional development in her district, reading on her Kindle, and lots of coffee dates with retired teachers.

"Did you notice that cooking is not on the list? My husband, who retired last year, has been doing all of the cooking and dish washing. He doesn't want to give back the kitchen, and I am okay with that!"

Below are photos by Irishbookgal from the 2010 Gala. All are expandable.

Clay sings 'Both Sides Now' to close 2010 Gala.

A reflective moment during the festivities.

SPAMALOT poster auctioned during Gala.

Clay implores supporters to raise a bid.

Singer donates RCA MOAM platinum plaque.

2011 Gala Set for Oct. 21-22

The 2011 Champions Gala Weekend is slated for Oct. 21-22 at the Raleigh Convention Center. An annual event during which champions of inclusion are honored, the evening is also a celebration, promoting awareness of the benefits of inclusion and supporting the foundation's programs. As he does every year, the co-founder will perform.

VIP guest tickets went on sale March 22 and general admission on April 26. For more information, see Champions Gala Benefit at the Inclusion Project website.

Book your flight to Raleigh by Thursday, June 23, 11:59 pm PT, and receive a huge discount during Southwest Airline's Celebrating 40 Years with $40 Fares celebration. American Airlines is matching Southwest's price for some flights.

Host hotel is the Raleigh Marriott City Center.

In 2003, singer Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel of Charlotte co-founded the National Inclusion Project, formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation. to expand inclusive programs for all children.

While coming home from camp, my son asked if I knew that everyone's brain was different. He explained that some kids at camp are different from other kids because they have certain disabilities.

When asked what he thought about that, he replied, "It's all good, Mom. We're all special and unique in our own way." - Profound statement from a 7-year-old participant in a Let's ALL Play Camp.

On a personal note, Mama Mac would have been 99 today (June 22). Her goal was a century, and she made it to 93!

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!



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