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PHOTO: Luke Bryan performs at the Factory at Franklin Tuesday night. / Photo by Alexander Willis

By ALEXANDER WILLIS

Country music star Luke Bryan visited the Factory at Franklin Tuesday night to perform at the 17th annual “Music that Touches the Heart,” an event benefiting Brightstone; a nonprofit organization that aims to equip adults with special needs the skills they need to live fulfilling and independent lives.

More than 600 guests attended sold out event Tuesday, raising more than $225,000 in a single night for Brightstone’s continued efforts.

The organization’s future plans include the construction of the “Land of Dreams,” a 138 acre piece of property in Franklin that will house its new campus. The facility is planned to feature “administrative, job training, life-learning classes, and therapeutic activities” on site, as well as living arrangements for adults with special needs, further fostering their independence.

“We call it our Land of Dreams; this campus is going to be built in three phases, [and] when we’re done, it’s going to cost, all in, about $25 to $30 million,” said Randy Elliot, director of advancement for Brightstone. “This will be the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee, so this is a really big project – not just for us, but for our community.”

A Franklin couple, Jim and Tracy Aneci, took the stage at the event shortly before Bryan’s performance. Parents to three children, Jim and Tracy spoke of their concern for their oldest child, Maddie. Maddie, who is about to graduate from Franklin High School, has Down syndrome.

“Brightstone is that amazing,” Tracy said. “Seeing first-hand what they do through their students each day, with love and patience… the environment that they have created is exactly what I would want for Maddie.”

“What Brightstone is for us is an opportunity for Maddie to be part of a community; to have a true purpose each day, to continue her social and vocational growth… and to be happy,” Tracy said. “It’s a place where we know she will be loved and cared for, where people will appreciate all of her wonderful strengths, and support her with her challenges.”

Hosted by the award winning reporter, Rudy Kalis of WSMV-TN, the event also saw performances from Gordon Kennedy, who has worked with such artists as Eric Clapton and Carrie Underwood, as well as Seals & Crofts 2, which composes of family of the members of the original Seals & Crofts duo, best known for their 70s hits.

For the event’s final performance, Bryan took the stage to strong applause and excitement from the audience. Having only recently heard of Brightstone and their impact on the community, Bryan said that he was a full supporter of their efforts now, thanking its staff for their services.

“What an amazing feeling that these parents must have to be able to transition their children into Brightstone,” Bryan said. “My wife and I, we had a niece that was born with Down [syndrome], and she had a congenital heart defect and we lost her after seven months. This would have been the perfect place for her, so we’re so invested in what you guys are doing. This just makes you feel good being here.”

Founded in 1999, Brightstone saw its humble beginnings in a small space in the People’s Church – now the Church of the City – in Franklin. As its clientele began to grow, along with the need in the area for assistance for those with special needs, Brightstone opened its first and current building on Parkway Court, just south of the downtown area of Franklin. 

Brightstone’s new building saw its offerings grow significantly, further expanding its job training program, enhancing its health services, and allowing them to take on even more clientele. With its next plan to actually create an independent living space for adults with special needs, Brightstone staff hopes it can become a reality.

Brightstone is still seeking support from the community to see the “Land of Dreams” become a reality. Those interested in supporting Brightstone may view further details on how to support its cause by clicking here.

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