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Nonprofit Records 10,000th Song of Love

September 7, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) _ When Ashley Abernathy was 9 years old and suffering from leukemia, her spirits were lifted by a serenade from David Lee Roth.

The former Van Halen frontman recorded a heart-rending tune especially for Ashley.

``Who deals the cards? Ashley Abernathy,″ Roth sang. ``Who steals your heart? Ashley Abernathy. Ashley Abernathy makes you happy!″

``It was just amazing, really cool, to think that a rock star would’ve recorded a song for me,″ said Ashley, now 15 and starting 10th grade in Gastonia, N.C. Her leukemia has been in remission for almost five years.

The song was produced by the Songs of Love Foundation, a Queens-based nonprofit that records personalized tunes for chronically or terminally ill children and young adults. This month, the foundation expects to reach a milestone with its 10,000th recording.

The foundation plans to celebrate during a Black Eyed Peas concert Sept. 8, when it will enlist assembled fans to sing tune number 10,000. The song is for Saeed Boynes, 14, who has sickle cell anemia and is being treated at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx.

Other artists who have worked with the foundation include Michael Bolton, Ronnie Spector, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who plays Meadow Soprano on HBO’s ``The Sopranos,″ and the cast of the Broadway show ``Titanic,″ according to the organization’s Web site.

The Songs of Love Foundation was founded in 1996 by John Beltzer, 46, a musician and songwriter whose Queens apartment doubles as a recording studio. It is named after a song written by Beltzer’s brother Julio, who committed suicide 12 years earlier _ the final act of a struggle with depression and schizophrenia.

``I really believe that this was his gift,″ Beltzer said. ``The seed he planted, after a 12-year incubation period, that seed sprouted in January 1996.″

Songs of Love works with hospitals and families around the country to identify a patient for whom the foundation can record a song.

The child or young adult’s family completes a biographical information sheet, which they send back to the foundation. The group then commissions someone from its team of songwriters to craft a tune based on those details _ name, age, favorite hobbies _ and within 25 days, the song is recorded, transferred to a CD and shipped to the child. The CD is given as a gift.

Songwriters are offered a $75 to $100 stipend per song to help cover the costs of writing, producing and recording. The organization, which has 12 full- and part-time employees, is supported through individual and corporate donations and grants.

The melodies aren’t meant as musical get-well cards, but, as Beltzer describes it, serve as ``a constant reinforcement of their healthy selves.″

Ashley Abernathy says her song still resonates with her.

``I love listening to it,″ she said.


On the Net:

Songs of Love Foundation: http://www.songsoflove.org

John Beltzer: http://johnbeltzer.com/

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