TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - He’s the “music man” of Region 8. John Gatling II has a way with bringing joy to people through music.
The winner of the Gr8 Acts of Kindness for January, Gatling had no idea that KAIT and First Community Bank personnel were about to come through the front doors of Focus Inc. in Trumann.
It’s a Friday afternoon at the center for adults with disabilities. But the men and women singing and dancing inside are not focused on difficulties or challenges they have. They’re just waiting for their chance at the microphone.
“It makes my heart glad when they see him cause they just love seeing him here,” Renea Cain of Focus Inc. said.
“He is John Gatling, a graduate of Arkansas State University with a degree in philosophy… not music. And his ability to connect with them—well, some say it’s extraordinary!
“The ones that we have had a hard time getting to interact, he gets them to interact,” Cain explained.
Interaction is not a problem for John –when they’re music involved.
So much so that it was hard to cut into all this fun to share a little news.
“You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness,” I announced to everyone in the room.
Focus Inc. consumers, or attendees, clap and scream at the announcement.
And with that comes this…
“$100, $200, $300, $400,” I count the Gr8 Acts of Kindness winnings into Gatling’s hand. “$408 dollars!”
This money will help Sound Expressions Music Outreach, Gatling’s non-profit organization which travels to centers like Focus Inc. and Abilities Unlimited.
“We don’t charge the centers anything,” Gatling said. “Because they don’t have it in their budgets to pay us.”
He takes the show on the road, if you will, to help people beyond these walls to understand the power of music.
“We raise money outside,” Gatling said. “So right now, it’s been pretty much limited to fundraisers. We’ve been doing those at the Ironhorse in Paragould. I say community integration is a big part of what we do--- to allow individuals to express themselves. That is what we are about.”
Gatling started playing his guitar at a residential center for profoundly disabled individuals in North Carolina.
“In fact, they were all non-verbal and I had a few instruments,” Gatling said. “A few shakers and some tambourines. It was like magic! I put on the guitar and played it and everyone just kind of came to life.”
Gatling decided to create the non-profit after the insistence of a friend.
Now, it has a local board of directors and 501(c)3 status.
“It’s just infectious when you see someone dancing and singing.. that energy just grabs you,” Gatling said.