A karaoke craze is spreading in Frederick County thanks to Camille Kime, a local advocate for people with mental and physical disabilities.
Once a month, Kime, along with the Frederick Challenger Civitan Club, sponsors a karaoke night for people with disabilities in the county. She doesn't get much help because "nobody is partnering with me right now," she said.
A grant from a district Civitan Foundation is helping pay for the event, which costs about $1,000 each month for rental fees, food and a disc jockey. Other help comes from some members of the Frederick Challenger Civitan Club, but Kime says more help is needed as the event grows.
"This karaoke night is now becoming the biggest event that these individuals look forward to each month," she said.
More than 200 people consistently attend karaoke night at no cost to them. Each month she distributes about 500 fliers to organizations aimed at helping people with disabilities.
"They don't have to be judged ... they can just be themselves," said club member Cindy Culler, who helps Kime print fliers each month.
When Kime and the club started hosting karaoke in 2010, about two dozen people showed up to sing.
Now, as many as 400 people with disabilities and their families attend karaoke night.
That's why Kime is preparing to write another grant application to help fund the event that is the second Friday of every month at the International Community Church on Byte Drive in Frederick.
Taking center stage
On Friday night, about 300 people attended Kime's holiday-themed karaoke night, which included a Christmas dinner, line dancing, games and prizes. Kime's granddaughter, Taylor Kime, always kicks off karaoke night by singing a country song.
"They love to sing and they love to dance," she said of the participants.
Taylor's performance invoked whistles and cheers from the audience. The 22-year-old was diagnosed with fragile X syndrome at birth.
The genetic condition affects mental development. Two other members in Camille Kime's family also have the disease and Kime is a carrier.
Bryan Saal, 33, is another regular performer during karaoke night. During Friday's holiday party Saal joined dozens on the dance floor as "God Bless America" played over a booming stereo system -- a ritual at the event.
"I love this," he said smiling.
Matthew Jefferson, 18, agreed.
The Frederick Community College student made plans to perform two songs on Friday night.
In addition to singing, Jefferson plays the guitar, piano and violin.
"I always tell all of them that you fill my hearts with smiles," Kime said.
A family affair
Those attending karaoke night are not the only people benefiting from Kime's passion for helping people with disabilities.
When she is not organizing a karaoke night, Kime sometimes visits her brother, who lives in an extended care facility in Hagerstown.
He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects the nervous system and brain.
"I would see my parents struggle because there was no help," she said. "My mother would cry because he needed so much."
Kime remembers watching her father build a wooden wheelchair for her brother because he was unable to walk.
"A child with a disability will bring a family together," she said.
Inspiration for putting on karaoke night comes from her family, but Kime said she would organize the event even if no one in her family was disabled.
"I love my family, and I love these children," she said.
For information, call Camille Kime at 301-639-5844.