Tanae Houston of White Lake Township celebrated her 11th with the surprise of her life.
When her mother, Malissa Shaw, presented Tanae tickets before her birthday on Sunday to the Justin Bieber concert in front of the Joe Louis in Detroit, Tanae cried.
Tanae, who uses a wheelchair, was one of eight girls with disabilities, all diehard Bieber fans, who received tickets donated by AON Insurance to Macomb-Oakland Regional Center for a suite at the sold-out Bieber concert.
Shaw, like several other mothers of daughters with disabilities who received tickets, kept the tickets a secret until they got to downtown Detroit.
"If I told Tanae that we received tickets she would have been imploding and exploding for days," said Shaw. “She would not be able to contain her excitement.”
Shaw would have purchased tickets but like many families with children with disabilities served by MORC she could not afford them. So when the concert was announced in March, Shaw tried desperately to win tickets.
"I was on two phones in both hands all the time trying to win some contest," said Shaw.
"Our people often don't have the same opportunities for things in life that others do," said Gerald Provencal, executive director of MORC, which serves 5,000 people with disabilities in Oakland and Macomb counties. "We are thankful that businesses and people in the community have joined with us to help our people with the economic challenges of disability by providing food, clothes, and furniture and by providing meaningful opportunities, this time, Bieber tickets."
One challenge for the Shaw family was to find a way to get to the concert. They no longer have a car so Malissa Shaw spent three days trying to find a ride. Eventually, a neighbor let them borrow a car. In the meantime, the Shaw family is organizing fundraisers for Aug. 21 with Applebee's in White Lake Township and possibly Buffalo Wild Wings to help them purchase a van with a wheelchair lift.
Shaw and other parents of children who received tickets said the event was a big emotional boost for the children
Another child with a disability, Anna Perantoni, 14, of Royal Oak, recently had an injury that prevented her from attending a much anticipated therapeutic horseback riding week at Camp Fowler in Mayville. She would be unable to attend another one until next year.
"Before Anna had a chance to become really disappointed our MORC social worker brought us Bieber tickets," said mom Jackie Perantoni. "It was a blessing and made her so happy.”
Jerry Wolffe is the Writer in Residence & Advocate at Large at MORC. He can be reached at 586 263 8950.