NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Music is described as the "universal" language. It also has no barriers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
High energy filled the room at the Totally Awesome 80's 2012 State Music Festival held at Nacogdoches' Hotel Fredonia Wednesday. During the event, residents of 13 Texas State-Supported Living Centers set their limitations aside.
"The adrenaline we get when we hear those claps and applauds, that's priceless," Lynn Hopper, the director of community relations for the Lufkin State-Supported School, said.
It was a time for laughter as residents and audience members danced to the tune of "Land Down Under." Tears were evident as one resident sang a powerful verse from a hymn.
Some traveled from as far away as the Rio Grande Valley. Earlene Gonzales, a direct care professional from the Rio Grande area, said it was a 12-hour trip.
"It was supposed to be a 7-hour drive, and it ended up 12 hours," Gonzales said.
They got to see part of America as well as sing about it.
Christopher Rodriguez said that being a caregiver is like being a parent.
"You care for them and you help them out in daily lives, and when it's their time to shine, and they do shine, you know, it just makes you feel good," Rodriguez said.
One contestant's parent expressed his pride in his daughter's accomplishment.
"Oh, I feel very proud that she can learn all these songs, learn all the verses and doesn't have any problems," Howard Gottlieb said. "She has enough confidence to go out there and stand up in front of a lot of people and sing her song."
In many ways the contest is no different from American Idol. There are pre-show jitters and lots of practice.
"They have me practicing the drums and the bells," Robert Schwartz, a resident of the Lufkin State-Supported School, said.
Today, the intellectual and developmental disabilities didn't seem to matter. It's a shame unchallenged people won't let them shine every day.