A group of 25 disabled young adults will join former Hootie and the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker on stage at the ACM Country Music Awards this Sunday to perform a song that they wrote.

The song – Music From The Heart – was written last summer by the 25 youngsters and ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp songwriters Brett James and Chris Young. The special moment will be performed during the 46th ACM Awards, to be broadcast live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 on the CBS Television Network.

James has created a new arrangement of the song, customized for this never-before-seen performance. Young, along with Music Camp friend, country singer and star of the upcoming remake of the classical movie musical Footloose, Julianne Hough, will introduce Rucker and the 2011 Lifting Lives Music Camp moment to viewers.

The special performance will support the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, whose mission is to facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families. The VKC has hosted a music camp for people with Williams Syndrome, Autism and other developmental disabilities for six years, and this past summer, ACM Lifting Lives sponsored the camp for the first time. Being so touched by the experience, the Academy has sought to do more for those with developmental disabilities ever since.

ACM Lifting Lives is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music dedicated to improving lives through the power of music. For the third consecutive year, ACM Lifting Lives will partner with an artist and a benefiting charity to create a very special moment on the stage of the ACM Awards. Last year, ACM Lifting Lives raised funds and awareness for Stand Up To Cancer from downloads and direct donations as a result of Toby Keith's performance “Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)” with Dave Koz in memory of fellow musician Wayman Tisdale on the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

Viewers will be given the option to make a donation of their choice to the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center by dialing 1-888-9-LIFTING or may make a $5 donation by texting DREAM to 27722. All proceeds will benefit the VKC’s mission and research to improve the lives of young adults with developmental disabilities. Donations may also be made online at www.acmliftinglives.org or www.kc.vanderbilt.edu.

“People with disabilities often have rare abilities, and in some cases those abilities involve a special talent or affinity for music,” said Rucker. “I am honored to join ACM Lifting Lives and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Centerto highlight how music can better the lives of young people with developmental disabilities on country music’s biggest night.”

“The need is huge,” said Dr. Elisabeth Dykens, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Director. “One in five children has a lifelong developmental disability, and 20 percent of American families have a family member with a disability. Vanderbilt Kennedy Center researchers, clinicians and educators are at work every day of every week on discoveries and best practices. We’re so grateful to ACM Lifting Lives for this moment of great generosity that will allow us to help even more families.”

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is an amazing place. Here, people and families across the country who are affected by developmental disabilities can benefit from world-class science and find understanding, companionship, and hope,” said Erin Spahn, Executive Director ACM Lifting Lives. “Our goal is to shine a light on the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center so that viewers will know that they or their loved one are not alone. They may even have a future beyond their wildest dreams, just like the men and women who will make up the choir behind Darius at the ACM Awards.”

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