Schneider’s Patient Inspires Song of Love

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Eight-year-old Danielle Dugan is not an unusual little girl in her love for music, the beach, animals and her cat. Her distinguishing characteristics come in the form of a rare kind of cancer known as Wilm's Tumor and an unusual ability to endure its painful symptoms.

As a result of her cancer and her resiliency, Danielle, who is currently undergoing heavy chemotherapy and lives in Levittown, L.I., will be the subject of a song to be recorded publicly Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the Central Park band shell.

"I think this is great for those people to write a song about me and I'm so excited and I can't wait," Danielle said last Thursday during a news conference announcing the event at Schneider's Children's Hospital at Long Island Jewish in New Hyde Park.

Danielle's song was written by famous songwriter Tony Asher, who is best known for his work with the Beach Boys on their pivotal record, "Pet Sounds."

The production and recording of the song was arranged by "Songs of Love," a non-profit group that has written and recorded personalized songs for thousands of seriously ill children since its foundation in 1996. The group has previously enlisted the help of such artists as Michael Bolton and David Lee Roth.

Danielle is the 4,000th child to go through the program, prompting the organization to arrange the public recording session as part of a celebration.

"Songs of Love" founder and President John Beltzer made the announcement with Danielle and her family. Beltzer has personally written close to 500 songs for sick kids.

He said the idea to start the foundation came to him after he was dropped from a recording deal with Elektra Records in 1996 and decided to turn his song writing in another direction.

"I told other songwriters about it and suddenly they knew they could use their talents for a higher purpose," Beltzer said. "I really believe that in a situation where (a child's condition) could go either way, something this powerful could be part of a greater healing process."

Wilm's Tumor is a form of cancer that attacks the kidney and occurs in only about 500 children every year nationwide, said Dr. Arlene Redner, Danielle's doctor. Danielle's is a particularly serious form of the disease, occurring in only 10 percent of cases.

Since she was diagnosed with the disease in April, Danielle has had a kidney removed and undergone intense sessions of radiation and chemotherapy.

"This song will stop her crying for at least one night, which is something that we're grateful for," said Danielle's mother, Patricia Gallagher.

Event planners said they were expecting a large turnout for the recording of Danielle's song, after which Asher will be available for interviews and autographs. The event will be the "world's largest outdoor recording session to make a child smile," Beltzer said.

"We're really making history here and we wanted everyone to come out to the park," he added. "We wanted to celebrate this in a big way and we couldn't think of a better hospital to partner with than Schneider Children's."

Reach Reporter Dan Trudeau by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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