WHAT ARE THE HUG AWARDS?
The Houston’s Unsung Greats Awards (HUG Awards) are sponsored by Attorney Stewart J. Guss to honor those local men and women who make a special contribution to the community of Houston.
Each month we award a prize of $100 and a Houston Hero t-shirt, and each year we give one of the local heroes $1000. These blog posts highlight the great work done the the charity workers who are among this year’s 6 contenders for the annual award.
THE CHARITY: LET THEM DRUM
The fifth of our six final contenders is big hearted Mr. Ralph Hicks from Let Them Drum. LTD is a non profit corporation dedicated to improving quality of life for North Houston and surrounding communities through holistic and artistic percussion experiences. They work with people of all ages but have can special affinity with children and those on the autistic spectrum.
One Sunday during the Texans game, Ralph Hicks (Founder and Executive Director) was trying to communicate with his nephew on the Autism spectrum, Luke. When verbal response and eye contact didn’t work, he frustratingly drummed a “well, that’s that” type rhythm on his leg. Luke heard it… and tapped it back. Mr. Hicks tapped it again… same response!
For one day, they were communicating in a way no one else had. For one day, it was their thing. Discovering this way to connect with Luke was the catalyst that would lead to what LTD has become!
The experience of breaking down a communication barrier with Luke led to a small drum club at Mitchell Intermediate in Conroe ISD, where Mr. Hicks also teaches band, made up of students with disabilities and typical student drummers. Let’s allow Mr. Hicks to take over the narritive and explain further:
From our first meeting we knew we were on to something special! We have slowly grown to provide community drum therapy sessions by licensed music therapists free of charge, and have recently been designated a 501(c)(3) non profit corporation!
We are also able to provide performance opportunities for drummers of all ages and abilities with the LTD All Stars! We perform over 20 times a year on a variety of percussion instruments at venues such as Waterway Square, IRONMAN TX, Rice University, and the Houston Rockets. We have strong partnerships in the community with The Woodlands UMC, The Woodlands Waterway Arts Council, Autism Share, Special Life Network, and the Sam Houston State University Music Therapy Department. We’ve even been featured in the Houston Chronicle and on Fox 26 Morning News!
As we enter our fifth year in serving The Woodlands community, we are excited to be expanding our reach into four new chapters, with many more cities right behind!
See the power of Let Them Drom in action in THIS FOX NEWS REPORT.
THE NOMINEE: MR. RALPH HICKS
When Tunde Devitt got in touch to tell us about the wonderful work of Mr. Ralph Hicks, this is what she had to say:
I am nominating Mr Ralph Hicks for Houston Hug Award, Mr Hicks is the founder of “Let Them Drum!” a 501(c) non profit corporation, dedicated to improving quality of life for North Houston and surrounding communities through holistic and artistic Percussion experiences. Mr Hicks who by day is a band director at Mitchell Intermediate in Conroe ISD, tirelessly donates much of his free time, for the benefits of others by giving countless opportunities to children with- or without disabilities to enjoy the benefits of musical therapy all free of charge.. A man seemingly possessed by the power of giving.
Mr Hicks is the kind of teacher who awakens joy in the creative expression of knowledge. He’s able to help students learn things in a different way they wouldn’t understand in a classroom. As a mother of a child on the Autism Spectrum, Mr Hicks has touched my child’s life in a way I could have never done, and for that I am forever grateful.
Mr. Ralph Hicks is a man with a true passion for percussion and using his passion and talent to teach, help and inspire everyone around him. His talents have garnered much acclaim in the past including first place in the PAS International Vibraphone Solo competition and being selected as one of Yamaha Young Performing Artists. He now works as a teacher of percussion at Mitchell Intermediate in The Woodlands, and of course with Let Them Drum!
THE CASE STUDY: PARKER CHEPLICK
Who better to explain the benefits of Let Them Drum than the mother of one of the children who is a member of the Let Them Drum Allstars. So over to Denise Cheplick…
(My son) Parker Cheplick is 12 years old and is on the Autism Spectrum. He had been with Let Them Drum for about 2 ½ years now. He loves this group because he really wanted to be in the band at school. However, it would have been difficult for him to keep up with his typical peers so finding Mr. Hicks and Let Them Drum has made a dream come true for him. Mr. Hicks is very patient with all of the kids and includes them into an event no matter their ability or disability. Mr. Hicks makes Parker feel important in this group. He looks forward to attending weekly drum circles where he sees his new lifelong friends he and his family have met.
Parker has gained confidence and feels proud. Parker has attended many events with the Let Them Drum All Stars. He has had the opportunity to go to events and places that he wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to such as a Rockets game, Conroe Go Texans Parade, many different runs and walks, different types of churches, National Percussion Arts Society Convention in San Antonio, etc.
Parker has gained so many positive qualities from Let Them Drum that it is hard to remember them all. Some include the following: being more patient, improvement in his overall behavior, able to listen to instruction better, being part of a team, being included with typical peers, having more confidence, better eye hand coordination, being exposed to many different percussion instruments, and is now able to tolerate more stimulation without being easily overstimulated. He rarely has meltdowns due to overstimulation anymore since joining Let Them Drum. He also participated in his first 5K Run without any training because of the exposure and excitement he had while cheering for other runners with Let Them Drum.
Mr. Hicks and Let Them Drum has been a blessing not only for Parker, but for our whole family so we are eternally grateful that we found this wonderful organization. We are able to attend fun events together and have met many wonderful and caring people. We have also learned about other resources and groups that we didn’t know existed.