Idol Fans Support Charity to Honor Hicks’ Homecoming

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Even though American Idol has come to an end until next season, that isn’t stopping the Soul Patrol from letting their voice be heard. They are putting their voices to good use to honor the current Idol champion while helping out a good cause.

In honor of AI champion Taylor Hicks’ return to Birmingham on August 8, five fans have joined together to create Project: Heart and Soul to help benefit a small Birmingham non-profit organization, Studio by the Tracks.

“The project started as a way to honor Taylor Hicks with a gift that would touch his heart because he has given us the gifts of his music and his story,” said Cathy Daniel, project manager for Project: Heart and Soul. “When choosing the charity, I thought it should be one dear to his heart and near to his home. After hearing about Studio by the Tracks, the decision was easy.”

Studio by the Tracks, located in Irondale, offers free art classes to special needs teens and adults, particularly those with autism, and emotionally conflicted children. They give them a creative outlet in a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere. Daniel has experience working with children with autism. Her daughter, Stephanie, teaches kindergarten and had an autistic child in her class.

“He was the most popular kid in school,” Daniel said. “We grew to love him and when he left the kindergarten class, we cried but we were proud because he had learned to speak, write, recite the alphabet, recognize his colors and the boy could even challenge Taylor on his dance moves. I wish he had a place like Studio by the Tracks for him.”

Hailing from Knoxville, Cincinnati, Birmingham and Ocean Springs, MS, the group has garnered support from area businesses in their charitable efforts. Donation jars are being set up in Birmingham at Bailey Brothers, Crestwood Tavern and Workplay; in Hoover at Buffalo Wild Wings; in Vestavia Hills at LOCAL Restaurant and Cocktail Bar; and in Pensacola at the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge and Package. The Project: Heart and Soul Rally will be held outside the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hoover on July 30 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The group is also accepting online donations at their website, http://www.projectheartandsoul.org. So far, they have collected over $900 online for the project. In order to get more fans involved, they are also creating a gift basket and putting together a CD slideshow to give to Hicks upon his return, and details on how to contribute can be found at their website. But Daniel said the most important thing is the donations, which she hopes won’t end with this project.

“I hope the giving does not stop when this project ends but continues with the Birmingham community for many years to come,” she said.

These five fans have logged hundreds of hours, in addition to working full-time jobs, to ensure this project comes to fruition. They hope Hicks and his legion of fans, the Soul Patrol, will help carry this project to an even higher level to help Studio by the Tracks continue their mission. For Daniel, she has learned that teamwork can make a difference.

“I have found that people with the same goals, who live in varied places and who have different backgrounds, can work together, make unbelievable connections through sheer determination and put together a gift to honor a special person,” she said. “I know Taylor will be proud.”

If you have any questions about Project: Heart and Soul or would like to host a donation station, contact Cathy Daniel at (865) 719-3742 or e-mail Stacy Ramsey.

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