One local man's vision means you and your children could be in a music video that will help honor and help millions of families -- including children with special needs.
The Reach For Me Network was created by a man who lost nearly everything while trying to make his dream come true -- everything but his passion and the son who inspired the project.
There was a time when the song "Angel Child" was a mere melody playing across a keyboard while powerful words ran through Michael Boylan's head.
There was also a time when Boylan couldn't talk about learning that his first and only son had profound special needs.
"I really felt like I was in a fight with God, and I felt like, 'Just leave me the flip alone. I want to have a normal life,'" Boylan admitted.
Then, there was a day when Boylan made big calls and bigger plans. He hoped to raise $1 million to launch a website full of stories and support for the 35 million American parents like him. He also wanted to produce a powerful music video that would draw parents to the site -- but that idea came three years ago. By the time FOX 9 News met Boylan, he'd already been at it for two years.
At first, no one wanted to invest -- and that was devastating to a man who had made his living giving motivational speeches to teach others how to succeed. Then, a single investor offered to put up $2.5 million, but Boylan said "he turned out to be a shyster."
Boylan lost his house, his confidence -- but never lost his faith.
"My personality is kind of a bulldog," he said.
The idea bit down deep in his mind, and now -- he's seeing it come to life.
"This is the score for 'Angel Song,'" Boylan said.
In the past couple of months, just enough money came in to get a professional to put the song on paper with music for a full orchestra and choir.
On March 13, Boylan heard the orchestra at St. Olaf College in Northfield play the song on its first read.
"It was emotional," Boylan recalled. "I started crying."
Boylan had the chance to tell the musicians that he is the single father of a special needs child and introduce them to his son, Connor.
"Imagine how excited you are for your first child, and the doctor tells you there are serious issues," he told the orchestra members. "So, the first lyric is: I'm down on my knees, asking for relief."
The orchestra and choir will be the musical backbone for what Boylan believes will be a powerful music video, and he's hoping to recruit 400 parents of special needs children to come to Northfield on April 6 to be a part of it.
"This is hard. All parents go through this," he said.
Boylan envisions having the musicians walk in while holding the hand of a special needs child with their parents at their side.
"That is the 'We are the World' moment of the song," he explained.
Boylan said it was important to include others because it makes it real and honors what the families do for one another. He believes that display will drive people to the Reach For Me Network -- a cross between Facebook and the AARP, an over-arching support and advocacy group for families and those with all disabilities.
"This isn't a feel-sorry-for-yourself, cry-in-your-beer club," Boylan said. "This is: Let's get smart and let's organize."
As in the beginning, Boylan is dreaming big -- envisioning a network of parents as large as United Way and big enough to negotiate special life insurance rates. That's because parents of special needs children need three times as much coverage as other parents.
Boylan also believes the group could someday be powerful enough to lobby on behalf of special needs programs while still remaining simple enough to let parents reach out to each other.
"It's a Minnesota initiative that will go nationwide -- and perhaps worldwide based on the power of the song and the music video," Boylan predicted.
First, the song and video must be recorded -- and Boylan encourages anyone who wants to participate to make the trek to Northfield.
"This is going to be fun. This is going to be special," he said. "It's going to be very, very emotional."
To find out more about participating, visit www.ReachForMeNetwork.com, click on "Make it a Reality" and then click on "Participate in Video."