Music is the universal language of people all around the world no matter their lifestyle, age, or background. It can be soothing, motivational, and empowering.
Hans Christian Andersen, the author of such classics as The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Pea said, "Where words fail, music speaks."
Playing music stimulates the senses. Through touch, it is tangible, and through sound, it is auditable. The visual senses stay involved as a musician watches their movement while playing. Even a body’s kinesthetic system remains engaged as one draws upon their muscles, tendons, and joints to play an instrument.
The Bayou Bell Ringers, a nonprofit organization, brings this dynamic multi-sensory experience to the forefront for the special needs community.
BBR’s mission is to bring music to the lives of the mentally or physically challenged providing the opportunity to learn and use their God-given gifts by performing with handbells.
Some of the members are blind and others so severely handicapped that they have the use of only one finger, yet with innovations from local citizens inventing specialized equipment, they can ring bells. A few of the Bell Ringers can sing, and some can direct the bell choir.
When we asked BBR representative Janice Grammer what drew her to the group, she replied, "I became involved with the Bayou Bell Ringers because I have a grandson with a seizure disorder and we found a place where he fit in. I learned how loving and caring the whole group is and that has made me a more understanding and better person."
The organization has an open door policy for anyone with special needs who can attend rehearsals.
Membership has grown impressively since the team's inception in 1995. Initially, there were only nine members. Today, the group is comprised of around forty-five members. The bell ringers range in age from six to over forty. There are also several volunteers bringing the total number to closer to seventy within the organization.
Janice’s love and enthusiasm for the group grew more and more apparent as she spoke about the handbell musicians, stating, "One member told me he loves playing bells because it brings joy to people. Another one said he cannot play high school football, but he can play handbells better than they can. A girl told me she is a star and people recognize her from bells. They are so loving and giving and truly Gods children and his gift to us.”
Ms. Janice stressed the biggest needs of the organization stating, “We need monetary funds and volunteers to keep our group going. Donations go towards operational costs and the everyday needs of the group. Monetary donations also go towards purchasing new bells. Many of the bells we have on hand are up to twenty years old and are beginning to wear and crack. A large handbell can cost up to $900. Then there is purchasing of performing t-shirts and equipment.”
For those who may not be able to donate, volunteers are a great asset to the organization.
“If you like volunteer work, come to the Masonic Lodge located on Hwy. 1 in Cut Off on Mondays and Thursdays, and see what we do,” stated Grammer.
Volunteers assist in a variety of different areas. Some volunteers help bell ringers play their handbells. Others help with transporting, loading, and unloading equipment. Since each bell ringer requires a chaperone when they go on the road to play various venues BBR volunteers fill those shoes as well.
The Bayou Bell Ringers would like to invite the community to see them play in concert at the Cerebral Palsy Telethon at the Cut Off Youth Center on Saturday, August 19 from noon until 4 p.m.
Another concert is scheduled at the St. Eloi Catholic Church Hall on Saturday, August 26 after 4:30 p.m. Mass.
For more information or if interested in booking the Bayou Bell Ringers call Janice at 985-632-6800 or visit their website at www.bayoubellringers.org.
Posted on Tue, August 15, 2017
by By Holly McKeon, Contributing Writer