ORLANDO, Fla. – The Joyful Music Therapy Foundation will be able to help more children thanks to a grant from an international hotel chain.
Molly Ford admits she has a pretty cool job. As vibe manager at Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando she's responsible for everything you hear and smell and a lot of what you see at the resort.
"This is what controls all the music in the hotel," Ford said, standing in front of what she calls the heartbeat of the hotel. A large wall of computer servers with monitors and blinking lights towers over her. "There's over a million songs in this," she said, seemingly amazed at the options at her fingertips.
Ford creates music and video playlists, books bands and DJs and, as she puts it, creates the mood in every area of the music-themed property.
She also plays a part in the company's charitable arm, the Hard Rock Heals Foundation. This year Hard Rock Heals Foundation will donate a total of $250,000 to local charities that share Hard Rock's passion for music.
Ford nominated Joyful Music Therapy Foundation as Orlando's local charity. Joyful Music Therapy was one of 50 local winners around the world, receiving a $5,000 grant.
Joyful Music Therapy Foundation president and founder, Tamela Ponder, said the money will open the door for clients who couldn't previously afford it.
One such student is 14-year-old Andrew Lumm, who suffers spina bifida and hydrocephalus and has endured 19 surgeries as a result. His mother, Rose Mary, said the family had to stop music therapy when other needs took priority.
"The money only goes so far," Lumm said. "There's a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses that are not covered by insurance. I think the general public would be surprised. Those are always the top of our list and what we try to take care of."
Music therapy is not covered by insurance.
While we were there, Ponder and Lumm played piano, guitar and drums. But Ponder said the goal is not to become a better musician, but to let the playing inspire movement and improve mental health.
"It's not about teaching; it's really about working on non-musical goals," Ponder said. "We want Andrew's legs to get stronger, we want his arms to get stronger and of course, we want him to have fun. That's what music therapy is all about."
Ponder said the grant should cover scholarships for 10 students.
"I'm so excited to have Hard Rock Heals partnering with us," Ponder said. "They see the benefit of music therapy, and they just want to help us, and that's amazing."