Talented TTUISD Student Dreams Big for Himself and Others

by KAYCE CLARK

August 26, 2008

At any given time, Zack can be found acting as Prince Charming or Scrooge, volunteering as a zoo keeper, writing songs for astronauts, listening in on college classes or raising money and awareness for children's cancer programs. No matter where his roles or interests take him, the 13-year-old TTUISD student has big dreams for the present and the future.

One of Zack's many talents is performing in musical theater. He earned the dual role of both Scrooge and Peter Cratchit in the 2007 season of A Christmas Carol at The Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. "It was a huge honor since the roles for children are so few and far between in the professional theater," Zack said. As for his future in acting, he said he loved the experience so much he hopes to perform the same dual role this coming year - as long as he doesn't get too tall! Zack has also been in the movie "The Bracelet of Bordeaux" and national commercials.

Though Zack loves being on stage and on screen, he says his passion is his work as the official ambassador for the Purple Songs Can Fly project. According to their Web site, the project, founded by Anita Kruse, provides a musical outlet for children being treated for cancer and blood disorders as they work with professional composers to write and record their own songs. The songs are copied onto purple CDs and flown by pilots and astronauts to places on earth and in space. The CDs are then returned to the children, signed, with all the flight information included as a tangible symbol for the hope of healing.

Zack was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the age of 11 and was treated at Texas Children's Cancer Center, where the project is located. When given the opportunity to record his own song, Zack's words began to flow. "I heard the music in my head," Zack said, "and I helped Anita with the composition too. We had a blast that day and she recognized in me the desire to help with her mission." Zack was invited to speak at a fundraiser to help raise awareness about the program. After speaking out and playing his song that night, he was hooked.

Through his increasing involvement in the program, Anita asked Zack to collaborate on a song written for Texas Children's Hospital's honoree of the year, Dr. Denton Cooley, the pioneer heart surgeon. Zack helped write "When it Comes from the Heart" and Dr. Cooley, along with many others, loved the song. Zack was then invited to annually collaborate on the song for that year's honoree and was asked to act as the official ambassador of Purple Songs Can Fly. Since this appointment, he has written a song for Dr. Scott Parazynski, an astronaut at NASA, who, having heard of these songs, gave them big wings - and now flies them on the space shuttle. Continental Airlines also plays Purple Songs on many of their long flights.

Zack now attends galas and fundraisers that benefit Texas Children's Cancer Center and Ronald McDonald House. "My job is to mingle in my purple attire and talk all I can about the program," Zack said. He recently went to a charity horse show that featured a young girl who, after two years of chemotherapy, rode a horse covered in purple as her song about riding free was played for all the guests. "It is the most humbling experience I've ever had," Zack said. "I have had the opportunity to hear, feel and experience the heart and soul of people, and as far as I can see, the world has great hope!"

As busy as Zack is raising funds and awareness for children's cancer programs, he still has many hobbies. He enjoys chess, video games, traveling, singing and acting. Because he is passionate about animals, he has volunteered as a zoo keeper and has pet tarantulas, a salamander and a king snake. He said he plans to continue singing and acting, and hopes to be on a sitcom one day.

With all these activities Zack still finds time to complete his TTUISD courses. He was involved with the program for a year in elementary school, and has been involved recently for the past two years.

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