Annual star-studded concert next month benefiting Peninsula school for the disabled

- Every October for almost three decades, a popular music concert takes place at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View.

 It's a star-studded event where  musicians and other celebrities  donate their performances for the bridge school benefit concert.

The school is located in Hillsborough.

It’s  executive director tells KTVU A lot of people know about the annual concert but not much is known about the stars of the show----the  children and the families this annual fundraiser helps.

In a tranquil setting surrounded by trees, Bridge ...a small school.... provides "a bridge" for severely disabled children... to  thrive out in the world.

The students have cerebral palsy... and those at the school cannot talk or walk.
  
A first step is equipping the children,  ages three to 12 ... with a motorized walker...so they can stand tall.
It's the start of their journey to dispell stereotypes --- so the students can prove that physical disabilities do not mean mental impairment.

That's the message 7 year old Arjun's mother wants the world to know.
   
Arjun can think.  Arjun can communicate.  Argun can understand everything you say around him...including if you're talking about him," says Sumita Kalra of Union City about her son.

Staff members pay close attention to small gestures....a smile...or the tilt of the head.  They are ways these children can  express a desire or a reaction.

"You look at what a kid can do and what they need to be able to do and our job is to build that bridge," says Vicki Casella, executive director of Bridge School.
 
Inside the classroom,  the Bridge School staff teaches the child to use a communication device- they call a "talker."

The child is urged to use whatever physical ability he or she has.... eye movements...or hand gestures to spell out words.

The "talker" translates the movements into a voice.

"It just  gives them confidence. It's really neat to watch because you see such potential and growth," says Jenny Larson, the mother of twins who have cerebral palsy.

Ten year old Adam Aron graduated from Bridge earlier this year.

He spent five years at Bridge learning the communication skills he needed in order to attend Blackford Elementary in his own San Jose neighborhood.

KTVU  visited Adam at his home. With his mother by his side, Adam spoke to reporter Amber Lee with the help of an electronic device similar to the "talker."

"Hi, I'm Adam.  I live in San Jose," says Adam.  He smiles often and is talkative, " I really like dance music . How about you?
   
Adam also likes to play with his twin brother Sam. Mom, Mary Aron, says Adam is thriving, she  credits Bridge for enabling Adam to live life to the best of his ability.

"They are just like you and I. They're just trapped in a body that doesn't work for them," says Aron.

Bridge accepts students from all across the Bay Area.

It's funded by the school districts it's students come from, along with state grants, private donations and an annual benefit concert with a star studded lineup held at the Shoreline Amphitheater.

Each year,  rock musician Neil Young organizes and performs at the Bridge school benefit. He and his then wife Pegi Young  co-founded the school with two others more than 30 years ago. Their own son Ben has cerebral palsy.

In 2009, actor/ comedian Adam Sandler performed at the benefit.  After each concert.. the celebrities  are interviewed by Bridge School students and grads... a way to help hone communication skills.

Clay Bryce a graduate,  asked Sandler: "So Adam, what new projects are you working on? And Sandler replied,"Grownups with a bunch of comedians...you're going to like it."

Among the Bridge School's success stories is 30 year old April Bryant of Berkeley. Undaunted by physical limitations, April lives independently on the 6th floor of a large apartment complex.

"The Bridge School is just awesome because they showed that I  could be a great individual despite my disability," says April.

After Bridge, April went on to graduate from Thurgood Marshall High in San Francisco.. and then UC Berkeley.

"I don't want them to see my chair and think she's retarded or slow," says April. She uses her eyes to prompt her communication device to spell out what she wants the voice box to say. It's not always accurate...and it takes several minutes for a response. Patience is key. 
        
April works at Bridge helping students.  and volunteers as a tutor for Girls Inc. She shared with KTVU cell phone video of  her picking up her nephew from school.  She asked KTVU TO air it to show that she  is an independent woman.
 
"I want people to see me as a person first. Then as a black educated woman who is striving for her goals just like anyone else," says April.

She plans to attend  graduate school at San Francisco State next fall.. to get a degree in counselling--- helping others...the way Bridge helped her.

For Bridge School contact, donation and social media links:

https://www.facebook.com/SupportBridgeSchool

Contact page: bridgeschool.org/contact

Donation page: bridgeschool.org/donate

For concert info including the lineup of stars: http://bridgeschool.org/concert 

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