Music in the park celebrates life
By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post SALISBURY — On the first Sunday afternoon in November each year, Steve and Lori Yang’s friends gather to celebrate life.
They do it with a musical celebration honoring those who have lost children or others much too early in life. Steve and Lori lost their son Michael in 2001, and from that loss sprang Voices of Hope Music in the Park.
This year’s event was the 10th gathering, with nearly all of them held in Spencer’s Library Park. The Michael Yang Foundation and Busby and Webb Orthodontics organized the event under sunny skies. Lori Yang had been worried about the weather, especially after the rainy and chilly days earlier in the week and a less than perfect forecast.
“This weather is just a gift from God,” she said. Lori Yang is the executive director of Circle of Hope, also founded after the loss of the Yangs’ son.
Circle of Hope provides grief support to those who have lost children.
“The child could be any age, from infants to age 50,” Steve Yang said. “Circle of Hope also provides support for Kindermusik and Young Life. We couldn’t do it without all the community support. No one is turned away from Circle of Hope, and there is financing available when needed.”
Sunday’s musical celebration included performances by about 20 different individuals and groups. Highlighted this year were favorite songs from previous years.
Though some of the performers were professionals, none charged for their performances. Facepainting, cornhole and much more highlighted the games section.
A slide show honoring the lost children ran for about 20 minutes, replaying often in a nearby tent.
“Some people never hear the name of their child mentioned. We want to be empathetic and supporting,” Lori Yang said. “It means so much to remember these children. I especially love the music. We have gospel and country, some songs were especially written for today.”
Lori’s mother, Rhonda Honeycutt, was selling T-shirts, just as she has for 10 years.
“This event and the support group have helped Lori heal. She is coming back to her old self,” Honeycutt said. “Lori wanted to do something to honor Michael. Scotti and Billy Webb helped come up with the idea for the first one, and it is getting easier every year. It’s just a beautiful experience.”
Tripp Edwards is a member of the musical group Yadkin River Theory. He came with friend Bret Busby to sing together, and then they joined with Annabel Barr and Ivy Overcash.
Songs included “Lillie’s Eyes,” “The Cape,” “Live Forever” and “I Will Be Your Friend.” This was Busby’s first public performance, though he had been playing for Barr and Overcash after taking guitar lessons from Edwards.
Edwards first sang at Music in the Park in 2009 after nearly losing his own daughter.
“She had open heart surgery twice as a newborn, but we were blessed. She is still with us. It’s a real pleasure being a part of this,” Edwards said.
Kari and Kevin Ennis return each year to Music in the Park.
“I always get to see people that I haven’t otherwise. Every year there has been good food and great music,” Kevin Ennis recalled.
Other major sponsors for the event were Lam and Cynthia Chu, Bryan and Meredith Overcash, Ronnie and Shalyn Barrier, Carolina Color Corporation, and F&M Bank.
Steve Yang said that friends Bobby and Kathy Rusher, Billy and Scotti Webb, Bobby and Leah Ann Honeycutt, Bret and Sarah Busby, Matt Barr, Mary Heather Steinman, Bryan Pritchard, and Joseph and Leslie Cataldo make the event happen, in addition to the sponsors.
“This has been a way of healing for many years. We all have this celebration to look forward to. Voices of Hope has turned something sad into something wonderful,” said Lori Yang’s sister, Leanne Kluttz.
“I miss my son, but I see how his life has helped so many. He was here, and hopefully he continues to make a difference,” Lori Yang said. “A life ended, but his spirit lives on. I was once told by a grieving parent that my little boy saved her life. I am so happy to do this, to honor those that have lost a child.”
The event ended with a mass balloon release, with notes tied to send aloft to those children.
For more information on Circle of Hope, please call 704-603-4204, or Lori Yang at 704-630-0319.