Helping Children, Honoring a Memory
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Helping Children, Honoring a Memory

Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra dedicates the Alison Mae Regan Classroom, a memorial to a life devoted to helping others

"She was an angel who chose her own Heaven
crowded by children who had been locked within themselves.
She made their tenderness emerge…"

So reads the final verse of a special song composed in honor of a very special young woman. Alison Mae Regan, daughter of 15-year Grand Circle associate Ricky Regan, was killed in a car crash by an intoxicated driver in August of 2009. At the age of 25, she was already fulfilling her dream of working with autistic children—and when this dream was tragically cut short, Ricky, his wife Wendy, and his son Matthew created the Alison Mae Regan Memorial Fund as a way to keep Alison's wishes alive.

In April of 2011, Ricky proposed a unique project that beautifully tied together the missions of both the Alison Mae Regan Memorial Fund and Grand Circle Foundation: the construction of an interactive audiovisual classroom for Ecuador's Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra. A Foundation partner since 2000, the orchestra uses music to teach skills and confidence to children with physical and mental disabilities—children who face many of the same challenges that Alison helped her autistic students overcome. The goal of the classroom is to use technology to help stimulate students, who study language arts, mathematics, and social studies at Sinamune in addition to music. The classroom's focal point is an electronic whiteboard that works with a multimedia projector and a computer to display, record, and play back information.

On August 26, 2011, our staff in Quito joined a group of OAT travelers for the inauguration of the newly completed Alison Mae Regan Classroom. Before visiting the classroom itself, the group gathered for a moving performance of "Alison Mae Regan's Song," which was composed especially for the occasion by Sinamune Principal and Maestro Edgar Palacios and sung by a blind student. (Please view a video of the performance below.) Vicky Penaherra, Operations Coordinator in Ecuador, translated the lyrics from Spanish to English. "We did our best to transmit the beautiful message that the poem conveys about Alison Mae Regan," Vicky says.

From the shadows of silence her children emerged
and her soul opened like a blossomed flower
The little ones appeared to this life enchanted
by the magic of her love, purity and joy.

"Alison," called out the children with tenderness
and there was no reward more gratifying
than to hear her name pronounced by these
innocent, sweet lips who always wanted to express
themselves, but couldn't.

Her great beauty was eclipsed by the glorious state
of her soul which radiated intensely to embrace and
rescue these children from the autism which pretended
to imprison these children in cold silence.

She was an angel who chose her own Heaven
crowded by children who had been locked within themselves.
She made their tenderness emerge, 
and with it she and her children caressed God's holy tunic.

The entire day, like the classroom itself, was a fitting memorial for a young woman whose lifelong dream was to help disabled children fulfill dreams of their own. "Ricky and his family could have let their grief and anger eat away at them," says Harriet Lewis. "Instead, they made the choice to help people. They turned tragedy into love." Our hearts and gratitude are with Ricky Regan, who chose this project to honor his daughter's memory.

Learn more about the Alison Mae Regan Memorial Fund here.

Featured in our September 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.