Annual Voices of Hope concert is Nov. 4
By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post
It might be hard to believe, but Lori Yang is in the midst of planning the 11th annual Voices of Hope concert. The event, set for 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4 at Spencer's Library Park, is a "celebration of life and healing through music" for families who have lost children. But it's also become a time that the whole community comes together for a day of remembrance. Lori and her husband, Steve, have two sons, John and Alex, and two daughters, Ellen and Ashley. Their son, Michael, died in 2001, and the concert came about as a way to remember him and all children. Lori and Steve created the Michael Yang Foundation, which primarily supports Circle of Hope, a parents' grief support group. When Michael died, there was no local group. The group meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at 2290 Statesville Blvd. There is no fee for counseling services. Each year since the concert began, Circle of Hope provides a slide show of all deceased children during the afternoon. The collection of photographs now totals close to 80, with more added every year. A balloon release, where each child's name is read, and a dove release are special highlights of this afternoon of music. Over the years, many musicians have found the concert to be a springboard to provide music in venues they wouldn't normally perform in. This year, Lori has reached out to West Rowan High School, in light of the recent deaths of three students there. "I want to give kids a chance to come and express themselves," she says. The theme of this year's concert is "Love Never Fails." White and blue silicone bracelets with those words from 1 Corinthians 13 will be for sale, along with hamburgers, hot dogs and snacks. Admission for the concert is $2, and guests are automatically entered into the raffle for a $100 gas card, a one-year Y membership and a quilt. "My grandmother always makes that," Lori notes. Rain location is the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA. Over the years, Lori has put together a whole team of volunteers who come back time and time again. "Some of it is just making sure people are available," Lori says of her organization of the event. Although she talks about the event year-round, she begins work on it in earnest once school starts. "For those who come every year, who didn't lose a child, it's a day for them to come and spend with their family," Lori explains, "and it's really special for those families who have lost a child. On this day, it gives people an opportunity to talk about their child. It gives you a place and a day and a time to remember these children. "Some families don't come because it's too hard, and I understand that, too. To hear their names hurts. But for those that it hurts not to hear their names, it's good to be there. Everyone is remembering them on that day." Coincidentally, the event falls on All Saints' Sunday, a day many churches set aside to remember members who have died during the past year. "We wanted this to be a fall event," Lori explains. "In October, there was too much going on. So we thought about November, but we wanted to do it early in November. Michael died on November 12 and his birthday is November 6, so it's good that this concert keeps me busy." Performers include Blaine Smith, Michael Hollingsworth, Leanne Kluttz, Gaynell Lambert, Kayleigh Allen, Alex Yost, Tripp Edwards, Madison Roberts, Leah Ann Honeycutt, Shelly Galloway, Adam Broyles, Melody and Rob Roberts, Chloe Burks and Kayla Honeycutt, St. John's Inner Voice Ensemble, Lauren Gaskill, Chelsea Scherich, Lillie Rusher, Ellen and Ashley Yang, North Rowan High School Chorus, Julia Honeycutt, Annabel Barr and Ivy Overcash and John Kale. Susan Shinn is communications assistant for St John's Lutheran Church.