Back by popular demand, The Gate Crashers will return to the Clayton Center stage yet again for this year’s April Foolies Charity Talent Show Saturday, March 28.
The Gate Crashers are participants from The Gate, a nonprofit agency that specializes in providing adults with disabilities a place to socialize and interact.
For Shellie Vance, a participant at The Gate who plans to sing a duet for the Foolies performance, the opportunity to sing for a crowd was nothing short of a dream come true. “The first time that I (sang), I was so amazed because I always wanted to perform in front of an audience because I love to sing.” Vance said. “I was overjoyed, totally.”
Elizabeth Harville, who will accompany Shellie in the duet, recalled her past Foolies’ performance with great pride. “I really did enjoy it, even though I got extremely nervous,” Harville said.
After her first performance was over, Harville knew she had “touched a lot of people” after her mother pointed out the many crying members of the audience.
When not singing in front of a crowd, the pair enjoy their time at The Gate in the company of good friends. Before discovering the social happiness that The Gate offered, both women spent much of their time alone at home while their parents earned a living.
“Before I came to The Gate I just sat (at) home, just waiting for life to go by,” Vance said. “Ever since I found The Gate, I’ve been one of the happiest people in my family.”
Harville is also thankful for The Gate and the atmosphere of socialization and friendship it has provided her. “I especially enjoy having friends that are on my level and who I can have a lot of fun with,” Elizabeth said.
For Christy Walsh, executive director of The Gate, the beauty of The Gate Crashers is derived almost entirely from the happiness it provides the participants. “I would say that our performance is more around the concept of expressing joy,” Walsh said. “We don’t think we’re the most talented group in the world, but we certainly think we’re the most joyful.”
In addition to providing many Gate participants the rare chance to sing for an audience, Walsh hopes the performance will raise awareness toward the “social isolation” many adults with disabilities face in Blount County.
“We’re basically one of the few opportunities for them to get out into the community,” the executive director explained.
Through The Gate Crashers’ upcoming performance, Walsh plans to show thanks to the community while also illustrating the happiness of friendship that The Gate has brought to so may lives. “No matter what your circumstances, there are joyful times and we’d like to share that back to the community.”
Proceeds from the April Foolies Talent Show will go to benefit nonprofit organizations The Gate and New Hope-Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center to help individuals with special needs and victims of child abuse.