Julie Jacobson, AP
"When I was up there, I just felt every ounce of love that these guys have," Darius tells The Boot. "I love these guys. I can't wait for the camp so I can go hang out. They're awesome to hang out with; we laugh all the time. We're always high-fiving and hugging. These are my friends. This is my band."
For the first-time performance, Darius was joined by 25 members of the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp on 'Music From the Heart,' a song the campers with developmental disabilities wrote last summer with songwriters Brett James and Chris Young. When Darius heard the initial recording, he experienced a strong emotional urge to perform the song on the show.
"They were singing the demo, and when I got the demo, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck because it was just so great," he exclaimed. "They couldn't have asked me to do anything cooler than what I did [Sunday night]. It was one of the greatest musical moments I've ever experienced, and it's just something I'll never forget."
The special performance supported the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, whose mission is to make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families. The VKC has hosted a music camp for people with Williams Syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities for six years, and this past summer, ACM Lifting Lives sponsored the camp for the first time.
"I felt very calm," says camper Betsy James about the performance. "I knew that this was something we worked so hard together as a group to do, and I knew that I was ready to go."
Darius laughed and agreed with her backstage at the ACM Awards. While Jimmy Clarke, another member of the ACM Lifting Lives Camp, gave major kudos to their singing partner.
"I was definitely excited about it. It was a good feeling, because we rehearsed it and practiced it really hard, and then to go up with our entire group and Darius Rucker," he tells The Boot. "This is a guy that I have to give a lot of credit to, because he cares a lot about us, and I think it really speaks volumes for people who have disabilities. It doesn't matter what your disability is, if you can sing, you can put it out there. I believe God has given all of us a talent."
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