Va. Woman Honors Late Son By Singing, Raising Money For Local Charity

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Colleen Wright - The Arc of Northern Virginia

All News 99.1 WNEW

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WNEW) — Whether belting out notes around the house or performing in her band, singing has always been a big part of Colleen Wright’s life.

But when the Arlington mom lost her eldest son, Connor, suddenly in February, she lost her voice, too.

“One of the things I kept thinking was, ‘How am I going to sing again?'” Wright says about the weeks and months of grieving after Connor passed away in his sleep at the age of 9. He suffered from severe and frequent infantile spasms, a seizure disorder, that affected his development his entire life.

To help with Connor’s condition, the Wrights turned to The Arc of Northern Virginia, a non-profit that supports families with children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc helped the Wrights navigate the difficult waters of medical paperwork for services Connor needed, among many other things.

While Connor was still alive, Wright agreed to perform with her all-volunteer band, “A Quarter Mexican,” at a fundraiser for The Arc. But after his passing, Wright was unsure if she’d be able to join her band mates on stage.

Eventually, she decided she wanted to get back in front of the microphone.

“I gotta do it again so I know I will still be able to do it,” Wright says of her thinking at the time.

It turns out Wright’s voice didn’t die with Connor — it strengthened.

Her band’s performance at the fundraiser helped raise more than $2,000 for The Arc, but that was just the beginning of her — and Connor’s — contribution.

In lieu of flowers after Connor’s death, the Wrights asked for donations made to The Arc. Friends and family poured in more than $10,000 in Connor’s memory, by far the most any child affiliated with The Arc has ever inspired.

“We were delighted and shocked by that number,” Wright says.

The Arc was equally surprised and grateful.

“These families are in need of vital services and support,” says Rikki Epstein, executive director at The Arc. “We offer everything for free because families need information and they need help.

“A lot of families have lost their loved one with a disability, but still are really incredible in that they reach back out to other families.”

Wright also uses her voice in another way: writing for a blog she created about loving — and losing — Connor.

“I’ve tried to post every week since then,” Wright says.

She hopes to bring attention to The Arc and all that it does.

“Every time I’ve gotten the same reaction, ‘I didn’t know The Arc existed …'” she says.

Wright hopes her singing and writing — both inspired by Connor’s spirit — will change that.

More From Virginia

WNEW’s Kimberly Suiters contributed to this report. Follow her and WNEW on Twitter.

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