The Bridge to Ben
This is a story of desire, a story of love and determination, and a story of inspiration, the desire is that of a Father, and his longing to communicate with his Son.
There once was a boy named, Ben. Whose Father was a Rock and Roll Icon. A very busy man and a very important man. Ben a very special boy, born with a severely debilitating form of Cerebral Palsy, that renders him speechless, with severe motor dysfunction, and a quadriplegic. His Father is, Neil Young.
When one thinks of Neil Young many things come to mind, and when I say many, I mean many. Sincerely folks, this man is in every stretch of the term, an over achiever. His creativity abounds. When I think of Neil Young, I think of, "Blue blue windows, behind the stars. Yellow moon on the rise." We all know the musician, the songwriter, and the political activist for human rights, and environmental issues. We remember the "Four Dead in Ohio" and Woodstock, and we have imagined what that "Cinnamon Girl" looks like; he even carries the title of, the "Father of Grunge."
Among Neil’s many accomplishments, and honors, two are very dear to his heart. The first one is one He and his wife Pegi have done together, and that was the, formation of the Bridge School. Neil would tell you it really belongs to Pegi, that he is just the "front man," or the "P.R." guy.
Which is, of course, an understatement?
THE BRIDGE SCHOOL:
The Bridge School is an educational program, designed to help children with severe speech and physical impairments, to communicate, using augmentative and alternative means of communication, (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications.
Every year since the Bridge School was formed; Neil has held a fundraiser for the school. A three-day music festival, held outdoors, in the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Ca.
Over the years, many members of the musical community have donated their time to this annual festival. The three-day event provides a major source of funding for the Bridge School, and has been the highlight of the bay areas fall schedule.
Entertainers who have performed at the festival over the past 21 years include: CSNY, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Robin Williams, Bruce Springsteen, Melissa Ethridge, the late Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, the late Nicolette Larson, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Los Lobos, EmmyLou Harris, John Mellencamp, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennet, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Billy Idol, Cheryl Crow, Greenday, and the list goes on.
Miniature Trains, A passion of Neil Young’s since boyhood. Things have changed a lot for that boy who used to play with his toy trains on the floor of a flooded out basement. He carried his love for model trains throughout his teens and into his adulthood. Collecting rare and vintage, pre and post -war models. When Ben was an infant, during the many sleepless nights, while Neil comforted Ben, patting his back on the living room floor. He began envisioning the track layout, and putting his plans together in his mind. A few years later, the plans went from his mind to paper. The results are in a building on Neil Young’s land called the Train Building. Which is an elaborate, miniature train world. This world belongs to Neil and Ben.
In 1995 Neil became a shareholder in the company that manufactures toy trains, Lionel LLC. He also developed a device called Trainmaster Command Control. This is a wireless control, and through its use, Ben is able to control various functions by leaning into the control or away from the control. Which allowed Ben to do something he had never done before and that was to interact with his environment and also control it. For Neil it is a precious gift the interaction between Father and Son, that allowed them to form the bond he had so hoped for.