Waiting on the world to change

This adorable 7-year-old boy on the autism spectrum has accomplished a lot in the last year — and he’s not done yet. Ethan Walmark is making a plea to John Mayer to perform at a fundraiser to benefit Autism Speaks.

Ethan Walmark on piano

Several months back, apropos of nothing, my 7-year-old son on the autism spectrum turned to me and said, “Hey, Mom. Your body is a wonderland.” Adorable in all its obvious inappropriateness, all I could say was, “Thank you, sweetheart. How nice of you to say.” Immediately I knew that Ethan had discovered — and fallen in love with — the music of John Mayer.

But John, what your music hath wrought. Every day, my son asks, “Mom, when am I going to play a concert with John Mayer?” Laugh if you must, but based on my son’s very surreal past, his request is not that unusual.

Mr. Mayer, you aren’t yet a parent — unless TMZ knows something you don’t — but when you do become a parent, you quickly recognize that you will stop at absolutely nothing to help your child reach his full potential. With that in mind, when Ethan asked when he would play a concert with you, I was filled with the spirit of both Kris Jenner and Dina Lohan (sans sex tape and alcohol, respectively and “allegedly”), and decided I would do what I could to make Ethan’s request a reality.

To be transparent, I am prepared to beg and plead (not to mention grovel) in order to convince you to headline a benefit concert for autism. My family’s E-TEAM is consistently one of Autism Speaks’ top fundraisers in Westchester, New York/Fairfield County, Connecticut; places of which you are well acquainted.

Ethan and the School of Rock

My son Ethan, a musical prodigy, joined the School of Rock in Fairfield, Connecticut (another place with which you are well acquainted) so that he could further his musical prowess, and to help him socialize with others who loved music. (As you know, music is the universal language in which everyone can communicate.) Little did I know, Steve Kennedy, a friend from our consumer magazine days (he was sales/I was marketing), actually owned the School of Rock in Fairfield, and three others in the Westchester/Fairfield area.

Once Steve figured out Ethan was my son, the sales person in him suggested a benefit concert that included a School of Rock “Battle of the Bands” format, in which all proceeds would benefit autism. The marketing person in me knew the event needed an incredibly talented, incredibly handsome, incredibly smart, incredibly loved (sometimes unjustly maligned) and incredibly local musical superstar who could appreciate the efforts of young musicians — especially those with special needs. Lo and behold Mr. Mayer. You, your voice and guitar hold the magic ticket.

A video invitation

My son, so wanting you to play in concert, created a video invitation which you may or may not have seen, where he plays a medley of your songs in between the following request:

“Ethan, a 7-year-old on the autism spectrum, has a special request for you, John. If Ethan speaks too fast, here is the transcript:

My name is Ethan Walmark, and I have autism. BUT, when I play the piano and sing, I’m just a typical kid. I love to rock out, and hope to date as many hot chicks as you do!

I play in a ‘School of Rock’ band in Fairfield, Connecticut. Your hometown!

My family is a top fundraiser for Autism Speaks. My family and the School of Rock are planning a benefit concert at the CAPITOL THEATRE in Port Chester, New York at the end of the year.

The concert will feature different School of Rock bands from all over the area! A few of the bands include kids with autism! All profits will go to Autism Speaks!

Will you PLEASE consider playing ONE SET at ‘my’ concert? I love your music and I hope you will.

Today, 1 in 50 kids has autism. With you there, we would raise tons of money for families affected by autism, like mine.

Please give it some thought!

And, bring some hot chicks with big boobs!

Your buddy, Ethan Walmark”

Giving back

Star 99.9 DJs Tad Lemire and Anna Zap

Inspired by Ethan’s determination and moxy, Cox Media’s terrestrial radio station Star 99.9 DJs Tad Lemire and Anna Zap invited Ethan on-air to plead for your musical support.

John, I know you have your own charity called “Back to You” which raises money for health care, education, the arts and talent development, and you recently and admirably spent the day building homes with and for military veterans. There is no question you give back the community.

An autism benefit isn’t new, but the musical aspect and connection to autism recently got a tremendous boost on April 13 when Crosby, Stills and Nash reunited to perform a small-theatre show. The performance was entitled, “Light Up The Blues” to benefit Autism Speaks. In total, the event raised a quarter of a million dollars!

Crosby, Stills & Nash

When asked about the event by Chris Epting of Spinner.com, Stephen Stills (who also has a child on the autism spectrum) said, “Shows like this have a different meaning for us because it involves doing something good for kids. And not just because these kids have afflictions. It’s obviously good to raise money to help organizations that help with the afflictions, but these are also still just kids and to be able to play with them and hear them sing something, that helps us as well. It reminds us of why we do what we do.“

Graham Nash continued the thought, “… for something special like this, something for children, for there is no question — we make it a priority.“ David Crosby finished with “… for some time now, [we] felt that the best place to put our efforts was with children. With these kids, the affliction is a natural threat. We want everyone to enjoy the music of course, but the real magic for us is when those kids come up and sing with us. It gives our songs really an extra added weight and meaning when you hear those young voices.“ (Neil Young was unavailable for comment, as he was said to be on Sugar Mountain with the barkers and the colored balloons.)

A mother’s plea

Ethan Walmark’s accomplishments
Since April 2012, Ethan:

  • Had his Billy Joel “Piano Man” video go viral
  • Saw Billy Joel release a statement about his abilities
  • Performed live on NBC’s Today show
  • Had his story told on every continent except Antarctica, and helped change people’s perceptions about autism
  • Was one of only 14 people worldwide to receive the McCarton Foundation’s “Genius of Autism” Award
  • Was the guest of honor, and sole entertainer at the 1,000+ attendee “Autism Speaks to Wall Street” event, Cipriani Wall Street, NYC
  • Was named a worldwide Child Prodigy (No. 3 out of 20)
  • Was nominated as “Most Adorable Viral Star” at the “O Music Awards” 
  • Rock-and-rolled 15,000 people at the 2012 Walk Now for Autism Speaks event for the second consecutive year
  • Enrolled in Fairfield County’s “School of Rock.” His “The Who” cover band won “Best in Show!” for their rendition of “The Song is Over”
  • Closed “The Who” show with his surprise acoustic solo performance “Eminence Front” which brought down the house
  • Saw his “The Who” cover band song of “The Song is Over” win third place in the “Best of” School of Rock NY/NJ/CT/PA competition; Ethan was the youngest band member in attendance
  • Led the eponymously named Walk Now for Autism Speaks “E-TEAM” to become the No. 1 Family Fundraising Team in the Westchester, NY/Fairfield County, CT area, raising almost $167,000 last year
  • Was named Autism Speaks’ “2012-2013 Volunteer of the Year” for the Westchester, NY/Fairfield County, CT area
  • Was invited to entertain an international delegation at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day
  • Helped Yoko Ono flip the ceremonial switch to light the Empire State Building blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Ethan looked Ms. Ono right in the eyes and said, “Imagine a world without autism!”
  • Had his original “Piano Man” video go viral… a second time!
  • Was invited to professionally record tracks at the Converse’s Rubber Tracks Studio, Brooklyn, New York
  • Played the McCarton Foundation Gala, Capitale, New York City
  • Went on-air at Star 99.9 to personally ask John Mayer to headline an autism fundraiser — he also played piano and sang in the studio

If my cute-as-a-button 7-year-old who is on the autism spectrum, lives near your hometown and is a musical prodigy, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the 1 in 50 children today with autism can’t convince, let me throw in my two cents:

  • Venue – The newly refurbished Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. After the gig, we’ll supply transportation back to Fairfield, Connecticut so you can run through the halls of your high school, should you so choose. (Screaming at the top of your lungs is optional.)
  • Date, time and set list – Mr. John Mayer, we are at your mercy. You name the date (4th quarter 2013 would be a nice suggestion… ). You name the time. You set the song list. You. You. You. If you want the crowd to sing Kumbaya in rounds for one half an hour, have at it!
  • Great publicity – Let’s be honest, you’ve taken a hit or two in your day. What better way to get positive press than to have a “local boy make good” come back home to play music for a noble cause, with School of Rock kids who emulate you? Plus, I guarantee that I will write a glowing SheKnows.com column about the benefit, which will be read by no less than five people, if you include my parents, two brothers and husband.
  • Family – Your mom lived across the street from one of Ethan’s School of Rock band mates in Fairfield and your sister lived in Ethan’s babysitter’s neighborhood. That practically makes us family! The ”less-than-six-degrees-of-separation” is karma.
  • Songs – Ethan constantly sings your “Who says I can’t get stoned” song. While I don’t discourage this because the song does have great melody and lyrics, I kinda sorta feel like there should be a “make good” for somehow corrupting this sweet, young, impressionable mind. (Wikipedia says your paternal side is of Jewish decent, so I will manipulatively and knowingly use the guilt factor.) What better way to make good than to actually play “Who says I can’t get stoned” at the Autism Speaks benefit concert? (Trust me. Not only will that song bring the house down, but also Child Services will immediately remove my children from my home. It’s a “win win” if you ask me.)

Mr. Mayer — John, if I may, and I think I may — please provide Ethan and the 1 in 50 children with autism today the utmost consideration as it relates to our request. In the event you can’t or are unwilling to play a concert with School of Rock for autism, you have my word that I will never, ever, ever write a song entitled, “Dear John” about “our” experience.

Those of us with children on the autism spectrum have been waiting on the world to change. And there is no better place to begin that change than with you, John.

With deepest appreciation,

Ethan Walmark’s Mom

Ethan Walmark photo: Allison Ziering Walmark, Star 99.9 photo: Courtesy of Tad Lumiere and Anna Zap, Crosby Stills Nash photo credit: Kevin Winter, Getty Images

More about Ethan and autism

Imagine a world without autism
Autism rocks the house
My Phil of autism