February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

School Librarian Creates “Trolls” Music Video for Sick Child

Cathy Gardner, the librarian at Smith Clove Elementary School in New York, recently undertook a project to lift the spirits of a sick child. After five-year-old Kelsey Berger, the daughter of Christopher Berger, the principal of Smith Clove, was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood leukemia, Gardner went into action.

The close-knit Monroe-Woodbury Central School District community in Orange County, NY, was shaken by the news of young Kelsey’s diagnosis. Gardner wanted to channel that energy and turn it into something positive and make little Kelsey smile. “From the moment her demanding treatment began, Kelsey wanted to be surrounded by her favorite characters from [DreamWorks’s] Trolls,” Gardner told School Library Journal. “I thought that the inspiring message from Trolls and the pursuit of happiness through music, dance, and hugs was the perfect medicine for Kelsey and her family.”

Gardner decided to mobilize the entire school community to create a Lip Dub video featuring Kelsey’s favorite movie. She introduced the idea to administration, staff, and the superintendent of schools, Elsie Rodriguez. All were very supportive and enthusiastic.

Gardner knew that she needed to get permission to use the copyrighted songs from DreamWorks. Her friend, Eric Valdes, who happened to be employed as the IT manager for the DreamWorks/Classic Media office in New York, was an instrumental liaison throughout the entire process. He helped get permission to use the song, facilitated a donation of over 100 Troll wigs for the Lip Dub production, and played an integral role in providing other extra special surprises for Kelsey.  “I am so thankful for Eric’s friendship and dedication to this important project,” says Gardner.

More than 300 members of the school community, some dressed as Trolls, participated in the production. In addition, Kelsey’s classmates, teachers, and administrators from Wappinger Falls Central School District in Hopewell Junction, NY, where Kelsey is a student, joined in the filming. Kelsey’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and little brother, Jameson, all had a special part on the stage. The whole gang was dubbed “Kelsey’s Krusaders.”

Cathy and Jacob Gardner, the masterminds behind Kelsey's Krusaders.

Cathy and Jacob Gardner, the masterminds behind Kelsey’s Krusaders.

Jacob Gardner, a teacher in the Monroe-Woodbury Middle School, and Cathy’s husband, shot the video after only two rehearsals on an iPhone 7 Plus with a DJI Osmo Mobile Three Axis Gimbal to help stabilize the frame. The tech-savvy history teacher has his own video and editing business (Personal Reflections LLC). He was assisted by Noreen Guerra, AV technician at the middle school. Additionally, a DJI Phantom Four drone was utilized for the opening shot and balloon-release sequence.

“That video was the single most amazing act of love and care that I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” said Kelsey’s father, principal Berger. “If the objectives were to put a smile on Kelsey’s face and to provide a wonderful distraction from her treatments, both were accomplished.”

Kelsey is undergoing chemotherapy treatments and it is hoped that she will be eligible for a bone marrow transplant.

To date the video has received nearly 16,000 views.


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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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