What is your superpower? In his inspiring song Jevon Daly sings, “Your power could be your muscles. Your power could be your brains. Outside we all look different. Inside we’re all the same.” He then asks, “Can you talk to goldfish? Do you have ESP? Can you make origami? Climb way up in a tree?”
For decades, Daly has been writing, producing and performing songs that have uplifted audiences of all ages, and the song “What is Your Superpower” was originally a love letter to his three children. “I started writing the song and thinking about cartoons and characters jumping over buildings and being fast, but then I thought about all the things my kids do when they interact. My son used to make homemade guacamole and braid my girls’ hair. One of my daughters used to make origami.”
The song’s message resonated strongly with Melissa Lane, Jasper County School District Special Education Coordinator, “I heard Jevon’s song a long time ago. I love it because it represents the people I work with; it represents what I stand for,” she said. “We all have a superpower. We all can do something.”
When Lane first arrived on the scene in Jasper County, her objective was to help students with disabilities become more involved and included. A student once asked her, “Why does everybody think we’re not normal?”
Her response was brilliant. “Who wants to be normal?” Lane said. “If anybody is ever talking about me, I want them to say ‘weird, crazy, funny’ … I don’t want anybody to ever describe me as normal.”
In a quest to acknowledge everybody’s ability to contribute, Lane has made it her mission to ensure inclusion for all her students. “What everybody else is doing is what they should be doing, whether it’s going to the lunchroom or going on a field trip. We’re not separating people out,” she said.
“I’m hoping that soon there will be one or more of us in everything that the Jasper County schools have to offer.”
Daly’s song also has special meaning for SOAR, a non-profit organization that oversees Special Olympics programs which include tennis, equestrian, bowling, swimming, bocce and cheerleading.
“It is a very cute song,” said Morgan Smith, Hilton Head Island native and director of youth programs for SOAR. “It is catchy and makes you want to dance and sing along. It is great to remind our students that there are many different things they can excel in even if they might not be good at another activity.”
Smith learned at an early age that we all can be super humans when it comes to acceptance and kindness. “When I was in sixth grade, my parents used to drop me off early at school so they could get to work. On my first day of school, I was the only student sitting outside when a teacher [Mrs. Kathy Cramer], asked me to give her a hand carrying supplies to her classroom,” she said. “As we were unloading, I noticed ball pits and hula hoops and was confused as to why these things would be in a middle school classroom. I asked a few questions, and she told me that she taught special education and that it was sensory equipment. She introduced me to her students, and we instantly clicked.
“Every morning after that I was excited to go to school to see, hang out with, and help them off the bus. I was very shy then, and I found it tough to make friends. [Mrs. Cramer’s] students welcomed me with open arms and gave me the confidence to be myself with a smile.”
Soon after, Cramer opened SOAR (Special Recreation of the Lowcountry), to help both student and adult athletes with intellectual disabilities get the skills they need to care for their bodies physically and mentally, while creating a strong community of support.
Smith volunteered with Cramer for five years before leaving for college. “She always told me one day I was going to come back and work for her.”
And Cramer was right. In September 2022, Smith stepped into her current role and has been instrumental in achieving SOAR’s goals. “In February, we had a South Carolina State Special Olympic Conference where the area directors and school special education coordinators of each county were invited. One of the biggest things they wanted to accomplish in schools was creating more of a community between the students with intellectual disabilities and those without,” Smith said. “During the last three years, COVID-19 has dropped our participation numbers and the people who know about our programming dramatically. So, a big thing they recommended was filming anthem videos as a fun project to empower and get students excited about Special Olympics again.”
That’s when she teamed up with Lane, who reached out to Daly, resulting in a moving, music video collaboration that is inspiring inclusivity in our area schools as well as in the community at large.
We’re not hiding,” Lane said. “We are considered a Unified Champion School, which means that we are working toward inclusion in everything we do. The goal is to host a Special Olympics event at our schooll next year. We are going to be out in the community. We are ready to rock and roll.”
When asked what her superpower is, Lane said, “When I leave this world, I want to have made a difference. So, you could say that my superpower each day is making a difference in somebody’s life. I want to be that person when you hear my name.”
“My superpower is perseverance,” Smith said. “It will take a lot for me to throw in the towel on a project, job, or relationships with people. With my job, it comes in handy. Every day presents a new obstacle. We provide all our programming at no cost to the athletes or families themselves, so, as you can imagine, a lot of work goes into fundraising, writing grants, finding donors, and volunteers. Things don’t always work out the way they were planned, but you continue and find new solutions.”
As for Daly, he will tell you his superpower is “making people laugh and writing weird songs.” He also acknowledged that the experience of making the video was really rewarding before turning the tables and asking me what my superpower was.
I thought for a moment as Daly’s song played in my mind. Though I may “dance like no one is watching,” I regrettably cannot solve a Rubik’s cube And ultimately, I do agree that “we all need one another, in many different ways.”
“I believe everyone has not one but multiple superpowers,” Smith said. “Recognizing the best in yourself is difficult, but I think the key to identifying the things that make you special comes from the things that you notice that make you and the others around you happy. Once you recognize that, you can be confident in your superpower.”
You, too, can use your power for good and help people with disabilities overcome stereotypes, as well as volunteer with SOAR and be part of something Marvel Universe-worthy. Because of SOAR and volunteers like you, these athletes develop physical skills, create lasting memories, improve longevity, and ensure that “we’re always dreaming, always trying, always searching never giving up, ready to throw down, make us proud of the hometown!”
If you are interested in learning more, visit soarspecialrecreation.org, and be sure to watch the “What is Your Superpower” video HERE.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of Female IQ (femaleIQ.com).