Despite being very young at the time, Joel Kassel remembers three things from his participation on the KidsXpress program.
The door that miraculously opened upon his approach, inviting him to step into a magical space;
His father taking him to Subway for a meal after each therapy session;
A sense of feeling better following completion of the program.
“My parents had just split up, and I guess I was having trouble coping with the changes in my life. I don’t know who it was who referred me to KidsXpress, or why I felt better. I just know that I looked forward to going to the sessions and feeling a little more settled afterwards”.
Referred by the school counsellor when he was in Year 4, Joel completed the KidsXpress program and went on to finish his schooling in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where he lived with his mum. As the years passed and Joel grew into the dynamic and vibrant 21-year old that he is today, the memory of KidsXpress gradually faded from his mind.
At least, that’s what he believed.
Every now and then, and just like the disjointed images of a surreal dream, flashbacks from his time on the program started to pop up in Joel’s mind. The magical door, the post-session Subway sandwiches and, eventually, another memory, perhaps the most compelling recollection of all … the sight of butcher’s paper and an invitation to write his own lyrics on how he’d like his future to look like, to a song played by our music therapist.
Joel was drawn to the music component of the sessions and, with musical talent running in his family, found that it came to him very naturally. It became his favourite form of self-expression and he would look forward to working with the KidsXpress music therapist each week. And so the seed of his future career path was sewn – only it would be years before he realised.
“My mother is a mediator and I knew that, just like her, I wanted to work in a role that helped people. But I also wanted to combine my passion for music in some way. And then one day, out of the blue, the memories of the music therapists who helped me when I was little came rushing back to me. I called my parents to ask the name of your organisation, but they couldn’t remember. So I googled, ‘Place Near Fox Studios That Helps Kids Through Music’ and sure enough, KidsXpress popped up”.
Currently enrolled in the Diploma of Community Services program as a pathway to Social Work, Joel plans on going on to eventually study Music Therapy, with the ultimate goal of opening his own Music Therapy Practice.
Late last month, on a warm Monday afternoon, Joel sat down at his computer and fired off an email offering to volunteer on our program. The message started off with the words…. “I used to come to KidsXpress as a child and from what I remember, I LOVED it.”
Since opening our doors in 2006, initially at Moore Park and later at our current Macquarie Park home, KidsXpress has supported close to 4,000 children like Joel. Despite the fact that some of the therapists from back then are still with the team today, we’d be lying if we said we remembered each and every child. What is certain, however, is that we will never forget the adults who reach out to us, years after completing the program, to tell us how we helped shape or improve their life trajectory. And while Joel may have forgotten the name of the organisation that helped him during a tough time in his formative years, he never forgot the memory of how the program made him feel, the tools it gave him to cope with his experiences or the desire to become a music therapist that it sparked.
And they’re the memories that matter most.