Inclusive GR talent show helps everyone shine

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A toe-tapping talent show held on the southeast side of Grand Rapids Wednesday was less about the performances and all about the performers.

Fifteen young adults with special needs flexed their skills on the Wealthy Theatre stage, performing in “Capernaum’s Got Talent.”

Capernaum, a program within the nationwide Young Life ministry, works with students and young adults with diverse abilities.

“The confidence that comes out of that is life changing for some of these youth and for their parents and families,” said Ashley Havenmeier, the program’s northeast Grand Rapids coordinator. “It’s really impactful.”

Katie VanOeveren, 23, has Down syndrome, but that’s only one part of her life. She’s passionate about singing, track and field and working.

“I can do anything impossible,” she told 24 Hour News 8.

Her father gave her a special introduction Wednesday night before she serenaded the crowd with an emotional performance that was dedicated to her late grandmother.

DJ Double D, also known as 20-year old Drew Bradbury, couldn’t hide his joy as he cranked the hits in front of a crowd of hundreds.

His friend, Nathan Dlouhy, proudly performed “The Star Spangled Banner” on his blue trombone. Dlouhy said when he hits the stage, he goes from nervous to happy.

“He can be off-tune, but I just have really true, pure joy in my soul because he has — and again I’ve said that word — but he has passion,” his mother Amie Dlouhy said.

She wanted to make sure the talent show was extra special for these performers, so she bought dozens of tickets and gave them away to Facebook friends.

“All of these young adults have so much to share and I wanted people to be here to experience the moment,” Amie said. “We all need to recognize these young adults and see that they matter and what they can do matters.”

“It’s fun. People get energetic for the crowd,” VanOeveren said happily.

This was the second year Capernaum organized the fundraising talent show event. It helps pay for or reduce for camp costs in the future.

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