By Laura Ferreiro
A young leukemia survivor recently made headlines when his dream to fight crime on the streets of San Francisco as Batkid came true thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Meanwhile, another group has been brightening the lives of sick children around the country all year long in a different way – through music.
Musicians Josh Rifkind and Sanjay Kothari have been traveling across the country on their Songs for Kids tour, visiting an impressive 236 children's hospitals in as many days in 180 different cities. Armed with guitars and tambourines, the jovial musicians encourage the kids to sing and perform with them, making the youngsters the stars of the show.
"My father is a doctor and has always been my idol," explains Rifkind, who co-founded the Songs for Kids Foundation, which works to enrich the lives of children suffering from illness or hardships by bringing music to hospitals and special needs camps. "I wanted to do something that had a piece of him in there and showed my appreciation for the life he gave me, and also combine that with the fact that I'm a musician and I've been in the music business for a long time. But mostly I wanted to do it for kids who couldn’t do it for themselves."
While on their epic journey, Rifkind and Kothari filmed the children performing the uplifting Journey classic, "Don't Stop Believin'." They put together a video montage of the performances featuring young children, babies and adolescents battling countless illnesses. Some of them are hooked up to oxygen masks and other hospital machines, but this doesn't stop them from belting out the lyrics with huge smiles on their faces.
"We never ask kids and their families what they're going through [to respect their privacy]," Rifkind says. "Clearly they're going through a lot and they’re incredible fighters. You can see these amazing smiles in the videos…a light goes on and overwhelms everyone."
The joy the music brings the kids is clearly visible, and it's contagious. Their families and hospital staff get into the act, singing, dancing and clapping along.
The 2013 Songs for Kids Tour tour will wrap up on Thanksgiving Day, and despite the fact that they've been out on the road most of the year, Rifkind and Kothari hope to kick off another tour in 2014, to bring music and life to even more amazing kids.