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7-year-old cancer patient listens to her life in song

For Nicole Tenic last Thursday was a day she will remember forever. It was the day her young life was celebrated in song.

While Nicole, of Farmingdale, L.I., who is being treated for leukemia at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, calmly listened to a CD of the song that captured the beauty of the 7-year-old. She smiled and grinned with joy as she looked around the room at all of the people who came to Queens to participate in the special occasion.

Sheepishly, Nicole nodded her head when her mother asked if she liked the song. As she gently moved to the music, the audience caught the fever and began to clap to the beat of the CD. When it ended, she said the song made her feel “happy” and she would share it with all of her friends.

But Nicole made sure everyone knew it was “not as good as the Back Street Boys,” her favorite group.

“It is wonderful to give Nicole something else to think about and focus on instead of what she is going through,” said Marie Tenic, Nicole’s mother and a Richmond Hill native. “She is doing OK at this moment. She was diagnosed at 2 and relapsed at 6. We hope the high doses of chemotherapy will be finished in December.”

The Songs of Love Foundation, a publicly funded not-for-profit organization based in Kew Gardens which creates original and personalized songs for terminally and chronically ill children, arranged for Nicole’s CD.

The organization was started by John Beltzer, a singer and drummer, in January 1996 after he had an “epiphany” while walking down the street. He said he came up with the idea for the organization after coming to terms with his brother’s death and named it after the last song his brother, who suffered from schizophrenia, wrote before he committed suicide in 1984.

“I struggled for 12 years before I started the organization,” Beltzer said. “I wrote the first song for a child from the St. Jude Foundation. When that person called up to thank me and I hung up the phone, I knew that was it. There was no going back.”

Today The Song for Love Foundation has written and recorded more than 2,400 songs for children who have been treated in more than 150 hospitals throughout the nation. Some of the artists who have recorded songs for the organization are Michael Bolton and David Lee Roth. Martha Byrne, an actress who plays Lilly and Rose on “As the World Turns,” recorded Nicole’s song.

“The song functions to keep the patient’s mind off the pain,” he said. “People use the song as a type of anesthesia.”

Byrne said she does a lot of work with the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and found out about the organization from the drummer in her band who also works with The Song for Love Foundation.

“She is great,” Byrne said of Nicole. “When I recorded the song I kept a picture of her with me. It is an inspirational song for a girl who has been through a lot. As her grandmother said, ‘Nicole is a girl with great personal strength.’”

For Nicole’s grandmother Fran Rizzo, of Glendale, who cried through the song, it was a special day. She said the song captured her granddaughter and drew a picture of what a special person she is.

Nicole’s best friends, Kimberly Ciorciari, 12, and Katie Ciorciari, 9, who were mentioned in the song, both thought it was “very cool” and were excited for her. Talking about Nicole, Kimberly said she loves her laugh and the great times they have together.

“I want to tell you ‘bout a girl I read about today,” said the song. “She stole my heart away. She’s pretty and she’s kind, she dances like a dream. Like a princess in a fairy tale in a sea of evergreen. Her name’s Nicole and she loves computer games. And her smile lights up your day.”

For more information about The Songs of Love Foundation, the CD or to donate funds call 441-7372 or checkout the web site at www.songsoflove.org.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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