“In what seemed just a blink ago, I was in a hospital room helping my mother gently maneuver headphones on my father’s ears. My father’s journey with cancer was brief, and we knew he was nearing his time to leave us. We were just hoping music could help relax him, even just a little, and provide his body enough peace to be able to sleep after days of agitation and pain. Within an hour…he was asleep. As the nurses began asking what we had done to help calm and ease my father’s pain, we said, ‘We just played music.’ That was the life-changing moment that has brought us here 23 years later.” Colleen Bennett~Founder of the KEYS Program
From that moment the KEYS Program was born to assist families going through the same difficult time, in memory of Colleen’s father. With her background in music education, Colleen and her husband, David set out on a personal journey to deliver music, joy and smiles to the bedside of children battling cancer and serious illnesses.
“When we first started KEYS, David and I worked weekends for a motor sports touring series,” said Bennett. “We would leave early for race weekends, so we could visit children’s hospitals and camps in the cities near where we were racing. We would go room to room with my keyboard, big bag of instruments and silly clown glasses making music with the pediatric patients. The smiles upon the faces of those little warriors just lit up the room and all of our hearts!”
Today, the KEYS Program is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with an award-winning staff of music therapists, educators and specialists who provide patient support programs of bedside music, family respite days and sibling support programs to families who have a child battling cancer…all at no cost to the families.
From its headquarters in Sherrill, KEYS has established partnerships with more than 44 children’s hospitals and camps here in Central New York and across the US, delivering over 80,000 smiles over the years.
“We have been very fortunate to have the support of so many great friends in motor sports, especially the Tony Stewart Foundation,” said Bennett. “They believe in our mission and have been instrumental in helping us to create so many smiles over the years.”
The KEYS Program operates on donations from individuals, corporate sponsors, foundations and from the proceeds from special events, like the upcoming CNY Kids Expo.
“We are thrilled to have been selected one of the benefiting charities of this year’s CNY Kids Expo being held May 21st at the NYS Fairgrounds,” said Bennett. “Their vision of providing a family fun day for families in Central New York fits perfectly with our vision of creating smiles. We can’t wait to share our “Smile Experience” with the families attending the event.”
Their wish is for a cure for cancer, but until then, Colleen and David’s mission is to improve the quality of life of the brave little superheros battling cancer through the healing power and joy of music.
After all, it’s all about the smiles!
For more information on how you can help create smiles like these, please visit their website at theKEYSprogram.org or call 315-363-6446. You can email Colleen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or swing by their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KEYSprogram and twitter @TheKEYSProgram.