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Worley to headline Donovan's Jam on Saturday

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Country music star Darryl Worley will headline Donovan's Jam as part of Empower Me Center's Day of Dreams on Saturday, June 4 in Lebanon.

The concert is the final of three events scheduled to make up the Day of Dreams, which also includes Jere's Ride and Gabby's Walk for Change.

The concert's namesake, Donovan Walden, was a participant for the first five years of Empower Me, according to Empower Me Center Executive Director Michelle Hill. "His big smile, wonderful laugh, teasing nature and love for music is what we will always remember about him," she said.

Live music is set to begin at around 12:30 p.m. with performances by Cedar Creek Boys, Carolina Gold, Janelle Arthur, Buddy Brock and Worley as a celebration of Donovan's life and others who have passed away. The event will take place at 200 Carver Lane and is open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.

Donovan was born in 1991 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, seizure disorder and blind in his left eye. He started with Empower Me at the age of eight in 1999 and spent five years as part of the Empower Me family, Hill said.

"'Dolphin Donovan,' as he was called, was with me from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., five days a week for eight weeks. In fact, for all the years he was able to attend, he spent each week with us during the summer. That first year, he was always the first to arrive," she recalled. "He would get out of the car and go to the edge of the building and wait for me to come out of the back office to initiate our morning routine.

"In a crouched position, ready to take off and win a race, he would yell out, 'On your marks, get set" and wait for me to yell, 'Go!' He would run with the brace on his leg and the limp in his stride the 100-plus feet to tackle me with a big bear hug. I got that hug every morning."

Each year, Empower Me would have an awards banquet to honor campers. Donovan was the recipient of the Best Friend Award, the Best Leader Award and the Most Polite Award. In 2008, he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the latter part of 2003, Donovan had suffered his first stroke. He would later have more, leaving him bed-bound for 10 years. He passed away on Jan. 30, 2014.

"This was the highlight of his summers," Donovan's mother, Debbie Walden, said of Empower Me. "He loved all the things at camp. The dream of Empower Me Center would also be a dream of Donovan's. We hope this dream comes true for everyone."

Hill added, "You know, working with these special kids, I have learned a lot of life lessons. One, you try to do your best to make a positive impact in someone's life. Well, Donovan definitely did that for me. He taught me how to never give up, long before he got sick and was faced with his own challenges. Two, he taught me that everyone, and I mean everyone, whether they are healthy or have a disability such as autism, epilepsy, spina bifida, blindness, deafness or have cerebral palsy and are blind in one eye, has a gift to offer this world.

"And whether these kids will ever know it or not, they do touch the lives of others and empower people to reach out to help other people and make this world a better place. I am grateful to have known such a caring and loving individual who has helped me strive to be a better person. He will always have a very special place in my heart, and we are excited to celebrate his life with Donovan's Jam."

The Day of Dreams festivities begin at 7 a.m. with Jere's Ride, followed by a day filled with free family friendly events including Gabby's Walk for Change at 10 a.m.

Visit www.EmpowerMeCenter.com for more information.

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