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The Sound

Superheroes are real, and they’re Iowan


Four-year-old Kingston VanderKallen was born with a medical condition that’s left him blind and deaf among other inhibiting conditions. There will be a benefit concert for him, Kingston’s Superhero Rock N’ Aid Masquerade, on Saturday, Nov. 24. See Sound Notes for more details.

Samantha Knight wears a leather bracelet on each wrist. The Lazer 103.3 DJ wears one on her left wrist with “Rock Girl” written in braille. The one on her right says “Kingston.”

“(Kingston) just turned 4,” she said. “He’s on a feeding tube forever. He has good days and bad days, but when he smiles, it makes everyone around him feel better. He’s a little miracle baby.” 

Kingston VanderKallen was born with CHARGE Syndrome, a rare collection of congenital issues that commonly include deafness, blindness, difficulty breathing, heart abnormalities and stunted growth. In order to make money to cover Kingston’s needs while still staying home with him, his mother Terril VanderKallen created Thoughts With Dots. Each bracelet the company makes can be custom-fitted with a word or short phrase written in braille; a subtle reminder of loved ones like Kingston who don’t have the gift of sight. It was the bracelets that brought VanderKallen and Knight together.                 

“I hit her up to make bracelets for Halestorm when they were in town,” Knight explained. “I thought it would be a good way to get her stuff out there. Then I took (the family) in to the show so that when I gave the band the bracelets they could hear the story behind them.”                 


Knight quickly bonded with the little boy.                 

“Being born blind and deaf, obviously there’s a built-in barrier with communication. There’re tubes in his ears now so he hears some sounds, and music’s what makes him move. He’s got all these toys that bounce up and down, but it’s the music that he responds to. It just makes him giggle. And to hear that child’s giggle is one of the most magical things ever.”                 

One night VanderKallen mentioned to Knight that Medicare wasn’t keeping up with the bills. She talked about the notion of putting on a benefit show to raise money. Knight pounced upon the idea, and the next day reached out to a local contact, Chad Willey at Metro Concerts Live.                

“Chad and I have never met face to face,” Knight admitted. “We’ve always communicated through email. That’s how I knew he was the guy at Metro Concerts Live to contact. Those guys — much like (benefit venue) House of Bricks — have been so embracing of the local scene from day one. So I just sent him an email, and he was right on board.”                 

Thus, Kingston’s Superhero Rock N’ Aid Masquerade was born. Eight bands and a slew of local businesses, artists and performers have joined forces to raise money to help the VanderKallen family pay for Kingston’s continued care.                 

“People I haven’t talked to in years have stepped up,” Knight said. “Lucas Brighton from September took it upon himself to create the poster, and he went around town putting posters up all over the place. We never asked him to do that, he just did it. Charlie Benante from Anthrax sent me a T-shirt and an autographed CD from the entire band. John Connelly from Sevendust sent an autographed drumhead and sticks.                 

“(Local artist) Shawn Palek put together nine superhero pieces in two days. Lucky Gal Tattoo and ColorWorks Tattoo have both pitched in gift certificates. Panera, Chef’s Kitchen, Jay’s CD and Hobby…” she went on.                 

Perhaps the largest show of support has come from Stone Sour. Having learned about Kingston through a chance encounter with Knight, guitarist Josh Rand donated autographed drum heads, drum sticks, guitar picks and his own guitar. Knight is humbled by the show of support from the music community.             

“Generosity doesn’t even cover it,” she said. “It’s like somebody threw a jigsaw puzzle up in the air, and all the pieces landed together.” CV

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