A classload of Barry 'Fanilows' at Oak Hills Elementary
He makes good choices, but not bad choices like Justin Bieber, Lina explained before jumping up to dance as her class took part in a Very Barry party as a warmup to last weeks Manilow concert that most of her class attended in Portland.
He sings the bestest songs, agreed fourth-grader Chris Marble, who is partial to Manilows Cant Smile Without You.
Lina and Chris are members of Lori Therriens Academic Learning Center classroom, which teaches educational and life skills to kids with learning disabilities such as autism.
And while not part of the regular curriculum, Therrien almost accidentally passed on one of her own joys in life: The love of all things Manilow. Therriens personal bulletin board behind her desk divulges her Barry devotion: It is three-quarters covered in Manilow photos and memorabilia, while her own family pictures are pushed into a lower corner.
But she doesnt try to push off her Barry beliefs on others. It started quietly last fall, when Therrien was softly playing a Manilow tune while her students worked. The kids asked about the music, and before long, the class was holding brief Friday afternoon Copacabana dance parties to reward successful weeks.
It was a way to get up and blow off steam, Therrien said.
As the students grew to love the music, Lina suggested that the class write letters to try to persuade Manilow to visit them at Oak Hills.
While Manilow didnt respond directly, his publicity team contacted Therrien and offered enough tickets for the students, their parents and 11 staff members to attend the May 28 show at the Moda Center, part of the singers One Last Time! tour. In all, the class received 38 free tickets.
And then it just kept getting better.
Jason Bender, managing partner of the nearby Outback Steakhouse, has a soft spot for kids and stepped in to send the concert-goers off with full bellies. He paid for most of their pre-concert dinner tab and also pitched in for the chartered bus trip home.
We have a philosophy of giving back and I have a philosophy of supporting the kids, said Bender, who has two kids at Oak Hills (though not in Therriens class).
Therriens parents, Sue and Jerry Kouzmanoff, who bear some responsibility for exposing their daughter to Manilow during the early 1980s, helped pay for the bus ride back. The Beaverton School Districts Special Education program provided the bus that took everyone to the show.
Its gone to a different level than we thought it would, Therrien said. Nobody had to do any of this, but everyone stepped up to do this.
Cheryl Hagseth, Oak Hills principal, stopped by the party last week and said she has been impressed at how Therrien had used the entire experience to work on academics such as writing lessons and life skills including restaurant etiquette.
She makes everything fun for them, Hagseth said before the concert, which she was planning to attend. Its just a great group of kids.
The entire concert party wore custom-made We (heart) Barry T-shirts as well as custom buttons and necklaces. Other concert-goers stopped them to ask where they could buy the same items.
We ended up becoming the star attraction at the Barry concert. There were people taking pictures of us, Therrien recalled a few days later. I would say about half of the kids danced through the entire concert.
This was Therriens seventh Manilow concert she has all the memorabilia at home to prove it and she already had purchased her own prime seats before the singers people offered up the freebies.
Therrien gave those original tickets to her parents and sat with the kids in what she described as good seats but farther from the stage. After comparing seats, her folks offered to switch tickets so Therrien could get a closer view of what might be the almost 72-year-old singers final concert tour. Their teacher/daughter declined.
I wouldnt have traded it for the world, said Therrien, who added that while her memories of six previous Manilow concerts have kind of melted together, This one can never be melted.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT