COUNTRY music taught Sharon Williams’ son to talk, but she’s been left speechless after a visit to Tamworth’s festival.
Mrs Williams’ 19-year-old son, Jared, was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis at nine-and-a-half months, which she said hit him like an “adult who’s suffered a stroke”.
He’s lived with cerebral palsy since then and the family was told Jared wouldn’t be able to walk or talk.
The young man also lost his sight at one point and Mrs Williams was told “music might give him some pleasure”.
Country music seemingly changed his life and he “proceeded to prove everybody wrong”.
Mrs Williams said her son started singing along to music, singing songs back to her and eventually built-up his communication skills from there.
“He could understand what they were singing and it was easier to pick up what they were saying,” she said.
The family from Mount Barker in South Australia was granted a Starlight Foundation wish this year which took them to the Tamworth Country Music Festival for the first time.
While it was a dream come true for country fan Jared, it was his whole family who were treated like rock-stars by Tamworth, Mrs Williams said.
Meet-and-greets with country music legends Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar-Daley and personal favourite Adam Brand were organised without sweat for Jared.
But it was also the locals who went above-and-beyond and left a lasting impression on the South Australian family.
“We were blown-away and over-awed by the town’s hospitality and generosity,” she said.
Carolyn Stier from Wests arranged access-all-areas passes for the the family, while Tamworth Bus Lines provided a 10-day-long free-ride for all four of the Williams clan.
And there was no request too big for the staff at Quest Apartments, Mrs Williams said.
The family also got a bird’s-eye view of the cavalcade from atop of Ray Walsh House.
“A lot of people don’t get recognised and thanked enough in this life,” she said.
“I was dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, making sure it would be a stress-free holiday for everyone.
“The community just helped us so much more than we expected.
“We got more opportunities than we probably deserved.”
Mrs Williams said her son loves life and would often leave an impression on the people he met.
“He loves life and he loves people,” she said.
“Nothing phases him, he’ll speak to people for two minutes and they’re friends for life.
“He’s a bit like a magnet, he attracts people in and he touches them because he is so happy.
“He’s not going to improve, but he learns to deal with it and tries to improve on what he’s learnt.”