With the flip of a switch, the mic is hot and the music is blasting in the dining room of The Ivey in South Park. John Leon Lewis has arrived, and with him the room comes to life.
The Ivey is a senior adult day care center focusing on members with memory issues like dementia and Alzheimer's. Many of the members don't display a lot of emotion... that is, until John arrives.
"Music opens the door," John said. "Alzheimer's closes doors and music opens them back up."
John is a performer by trade, but the heart and soul of his performance here has nothing to do with a paycheck.
“It's almost like I’m looking for gold, digging for memories of my own mother," John said.
His own mother passed away 13 years ago with Alzheimer's. Each one of his performances focuses on getting members to open up and "find their souls" again.
And he does it so very well.
As John kicks off his show, hands start clapping and toes start tapping. Life comes up out of the chairs as John grabs them by the hands. They dance, they sing, and they enjoy memories that sometimes are lost to the terrible disease.
Janet LeClair is the operations manager for The Ivey. She says John has had an incredible impact on members who otherwise are hard to reach.
“Many of our members choose to come on the days he’s here because they don't remember anything, but go home and tell their families ‘Oh yeah, John Lewis was here today,'" LeClair said.
"My goal is to bring as much love and joy into the room as possible," John said. And two days a week, that's exactly what he brings to The Ivey.
Laughing, smiling, dancing people who are also fighting an awful disease that can rob a person of all those things - John gives them back a little of the "normal" life.
Souls are found indeed.
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