While writing articles for the Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch for a number of years, Dan Roark observed church members affected by autism and aspergers. After witnessing a particularly self-violent episode of a young woman, Dan became more intrigued by the effects and appearances of autism. A few days later, he asked the father how she was doing. The father told that Dan that he wished he could get inside her head, so he could know what she was going through.
Dan began to do research and wonder what the girl, or any person on the spectrum, was going through. A few months later, Dan wrote his song, Hello Out There, for those on the autism spectrum. When he introduces the song on stage, he mentions that he was fascinated by what they were going through. He, of course, has no way of knowing. But having stuttered all his life, he knows what it’s like to have to live inside your head.
Dan began to think about doing benefits for autism programs or an institution, using the song as a rally statement. Fast forward a good while. One of Dan’s songwriting friends, John Mason, and his wife, Suzanne, were talking at a Poor David’s Pub open mic (now Mr. Troll’s Open Mic) John and Suzanne’s grandson, Dakota, is on the spectrum. Dan usually makes sure to play Hello Out There when they are in the audience.
The three were talking and Suzanne said, “We ought to do a fundraiser!”
Dan is familiar with having showcases, being Showcase Director of the Dallas Songwriters Association, among other things, Dan thought it was a good idea. He talked to David Card, owner of Poor David’s Pub, and they worked out a date for the show.
Then Dan met with Neil Massey, Development Director of the Autism Treatment Center of Dallas (ATC), in his office at the center. Neil was excited about the benefit. He gave Dan a tour and history of the center. They sat in Neil’s office and worked out a plan and what the center would do to support the benefit. They would print flyers and sent out press releases to the Dallas media. On his part, Dan would sell tickets on his website because there wouldn’t be a fee and Dan could print out a full report for ATC.
Neil invited an employee of the center to join them. He was diagnosed with autism in his thirties. Dan played Hello Out There for the two men and the workers within earshot. When he finished the first verse, Dan heard the employee say as he was playing the instrumental lead into the chorus:
“That could have been said by anyone here.”
When he finished the song, several employees thanked Dan for writing the song.
It was at that meeting – or soon after – that Dan came up with Songwriters For Autism.
Next, the plans and preparation. See the event page here.
Peace be with you.