BY LYNN EDMONDS
Musical sensation and TV host Nick Cannon, along with rapper Nelly and other entertainers, visited St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside last Thursday to give an exclusive concert to children and staff at the hospital.
Cannon started performing at the hospital, which provides care for children with special needs and life-limiting conditions, in 2012. On Thursday evening, he, Nelly and the other artists – Alicia Michilli, the CraigLewis Band, Anthem Lights, Amanda Dilks and Kehlani – also put on a benefit concert in Times Square for St. Mary’s.
The concert in Manhattan would draw thousands, but the performance at St. Mary’s was an intimate one. A few lucky kids sat on the floor just feet from the stage, while one even plopped down in Nelly’s lap and took selfies with him.
Prior to the event, children filled the rows of folding chairs. Ranging from infants to adolescents, they sat facing the stage; some sleeping or squirming in the arms of their caretakers, others in chairs or wheelchairs. The brashest among them, like four-year-old Ashley, pranced in front of Cannon gleefully, until the musician jokingly teased her, “Ashley always takes over the show,”
But before he kicked off the performances, Cannon said a few more serious words. “To see everybody, and to see these smiles, it makes my day,” he said. “You guys are the strongest people I’ve ever met, and you know, there’s nothing that goes on outside of this building that you guys can’t overcome, because you guys are just doing it with great smiles and great love.”
After Cannon, Nelly took the stage.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful surprise, I’m very happy to be here,” the musician said.
“You think that you’ve accomplished so much, sometimes. Obviously, I’ve accomplished a lot, but to come here today I’ve realized I haven’t accomplished enough. This is one of those things I’m able to lend a hand to.”
He stopped short of calling the visit an act of charity, saying instead, “I want to call it a great experience for myself, because this is your guy’s home, this is something that I’m visiting, and I know I’m supposed to be here to change your life, but so you know, you guys are changing my life as of now.”
Then he went back to sitting on the floor with the kids.
The Christian boy band Anthem Lights from Nashville then took to the stage, singing an acoustic version of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” They were followed by the Harlem Globetrotters “smile patrol,” who did some tricks for the kids.
Amelia Michilli, 22 years old and a former contestant on America’s Got Talent, then took the stage.
“Thank you guys so much for letting me be a part of this, this is so incredibly beautiful and amazing, my heart is exploding right now, but, I’m going to get over it,” the singer with close cropped hair, stylish leather pants, and high tops told the kids.
She crooned the lyrics to her bluesy single “Heartbeat,” “You make my heart beat,” and “Not the way you’re thinking of.”
But she was not to be outdone by the talented CraigLewis Band. The group displayed a distinctive gospel sound and hipster dress as they belted “Born by the River.”
“I was born by the river,” they started, sending a ripple through the crowd from their opening note, a ripple that unmoored their listeners and let them float on those long held notes, for just a few minutes.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana