Ace Young -- an Idol with a Passion to Help
This Saturday, October 28, is “Make a Difference Day” in America and I started this site to talk to your favorite celebrities about their passions and their charities.
You could say that Ace Young, a finalist on this past season of American Idol, was the catalyst for this column. I was impressed with the dedication that he and his family have for the young patients at Denver Children’s Hospital. Ace is an articulate and passionate young man who started visiting the patients at the hospital since before his stint on American Idol catapulted him to stardom and the need for bodyguards.
Ace knows firsthand what it’s like for those families who are sitting and waiting and hoping for their child to get better and go home. When Ace was a sophomore in high school, his brother Ryan, while away at college, crashed his car and the family was unsure if Ryan would ever walk again. He knows what it’s like to wait. Fortunately, Ryan’s story had a happy ending.
The Colorado native and his family have always been generous to those in need, but after living through a near tragedy in his own family, Ace recognized the importance of continuing his work. Now, he’s a recognizable face and name in pop culture and is using his fame to raise $100,000 for Denver Children’s Hospital. Ace and I had a chance to chat about his life and his charitable goals:
When did you start helping others?I was lucky enough to be part of a family that, even in our poor times and our financial struggles with five boys, we always gave to those less fortunate. When I was little, we would leave baskets at doorsteps on Christmas Eve and they would have gift certificates in them and candy canes and cookies. One year, when I was 7 years old, I remember dropping one at a doorstep and running away to hide – we didn’t want the thank you – and I watched the mom come out and look around and then look down and there’s an overall joy on her face when you realize that someone cares about you. She got to be the hero walking back in the house. My family has always been doing things like this.
What happened to Ryan?
I was a sophomore in high school and I really missed him. He was at college and he was my best friend and I didn’t get to hang out with him anymore. I got really depressed. I was out golfing with my dad on a Sunday and my dad got a phone call and he looked pale. He told me that Ryan was in a car accident and he’s going to be at Boulder Community Hospital. It was so bad that he was flown to the hospital by private jet…and there was a back surgeon already there.
What were you feeling?
I felt relieved to see his chest going up and down…aside from the huge cuts, he broke his back in places and dislocated it in several places….he went into surgery and we weren’t sure if he would walk again. Within three weeks he was able to stand and he walked with his walker. We had a hospital bed in the house and every day at lunch I would leave high school and I would hang out with him.
He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him ‘perform.’ I asked him what he wanted to do and he said ‘walk.’ He played basketball and is 6 foot 7 and very athletic. I had faith in the fact that he would be able to do those things. Two years later, we went out to Flagstaff in Boulder and he told me I want to help you in any way, shape or form, so he helped me to get bookings and I started performing. Then I realized I wanted to give back. I was a senior in high school and I talked with my dad and mom and my brothers and I started visiting Children’s Hospital three times a week. The response was amazing – we’d sing pop songs, ‘N Sync songs, everything.
Why the Denver Children’s Hospital?
I never got to be a big brother. I’m great with kids and I never got to take everything that I learned from watching my brothers and pay it forward…I never got in fights except to fight the bullies who tried to take advantage of other kids. I was always protective, but it’s more than that. It’s actually a selfish thing, I feel so good after hanging out with these kids and sharing time with them. I never ask them about their story – they are there to live past it. I just hang out with them, tell them what’s going on with me and share music with them. Kids have a lot to say and they know more than we’d like to give them credit for sometimes.
(For example,) there was a six-year-old boy getting cancer treatment and his mom said he hadn’t smiled in weeks. I asked her if I could come into his room and visit and within five minutes he was laughing and singing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. I told him to keep doing what he was doing, he was winning and then I asked him “What’s the meaning of life?” And he said, “To live it.” At that moment his mom broke down, but he didn’t. He got it. Everything else doesn’t matter. It’s amazing to see -- all the things that distract us on a day-to-day basis, what you have, etc., when it should be ‘Welcome to a new day.” I see it as that. You’re stronger with the support of others.
Are you religious?
I believe in God if that’s what you mean, I was raised in a few different churches and my parents never tied me down or got me baptized in one, but I believe in God. I hope that there’s a party after this life. If there’s not, I won’t be there to worry about it.
Do you ever get nervous or scared seeing the sick kids?It’s not scary for me, because if I don’t go and one of these kids passed on, I’m not going to be able to meet them and that bothers me. I’m not going to be able to talk to them and hear their story and I’m not scared by anything like that. Truthfully, I think these kids are so amazing…they are more grown up than half my friends that have been through college.
What are you doing with the charity?
(FYI -- throughout his time on American Idol, Ace’s fans raised $10,777.77! see HighRollers With Heart)
We started a charity to raise money for the hospital’s Family Amenities Area. Although I started it in my hometown, it can touch everyone nationwide because at this hospital there are, for example, heart surgeons and children are flown in from other areas to be treated here. The Family Amenities Area is a place where the families stay while kids are in surgery. It allows them to get a good night rest and know they are right there.
How much are you raising?The whole facility costs $1.5 million -- our goal is $100,000 and we’re over a quarter of that already and we have a whole year to do it.
What are you doing to raise money?
I’m auctioning off items from the American Idol tour – pictures, clothing, etc. all the things the fans recognize. I’ll continue to perform at the Hospital too.
Are you getting paid to help the hospital?
No, I’ve visited the hospital for eight years and before Idol; that’s who I am, I don’t take a penny.
And what about your fans?They are the ones doing all the hard work. They find out about my interest in Children’s hospital during the show (note: they raised $10,777 for the hospital during the show), and they are in control of updating everything on the websites, holding the auctions, and spreading the good word. They run everything by me and I don’t think I’ve said no, their ideas are brilliant, they are really really driven. I couldn’t do it without my fans.
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