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Paul next to piano

A star on the rise!

Paul Kapeleris’ life changed in an instant when his musical career skyrocketed to fame after an extraordinary performance of Andra Day’s Rise Up on popular television program, Australia’s Got Talent earlier this year. The now 23 year old with the angelic voice and exceptional piano playing skills is the 2019 Vision Australia Carols by Candlelight Ambassador. The talented musician was born with only 15%; he now only has 5% vision which is slowly deteriorating. Paul found a new meaning for life when his mother encouraged him to start piano lessons at the age of eight. ‘’It was very difficult as I couldn’t see the notes. Basically my teacher told me to practice and feel the notes with my eyes closed. The piano has a set structure so I don’t have to look to play the piano anymore. There’s a lot of muscle memory going on,’’ Paul explained. From a young age, Paul would watch talent shows on television such as X Factor and Australian Idol, and would dream of doing something similar as he grew up. To Paul, music was what gave him the confidence and freedom to truly be himself. Earlier this year, Paul completed his Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in music, which came after years of dedication to the piano and music. Inspired by his mum, music teachers and professors, Kapeleris has had the privilege to learn from a variety of people over the years. Kapeleris finds inspiration across the music industry with his idols being Sam Smith and Chris Stapleton for their ability to connect with their music and audience. ‘’I love Ed Sheeran’s songwriting ability, and Gary LeVox and Tori Kelly for the absolutely stunning vocals. All of these incredible artists have sculpted my own artistry in some way, and I am eternally grateful for their drive and passion to make music.’’ As Vision Australia Carols by Candlelight Ambassador, Kapeleris hopes to provide inspiration to those who don’t think they are good enough or have what it takes. ‘’Vision Australia has allowed me to live a life I would never have been able to live otherwise. They have provided me with support, got me out of the house with young adult social activities, and have taught me life skills through occupational therapy. Interacting with other people who have vision impairments is an enriching experience that, for me, would only have been possible through Vision Australia.’’ ‘’As someone who has lived with a severe, degenerative vision impairment for all of my life, it means the absolute world to be given this opportunity. We are strong. We are powerful and can do anything.’’ ‘’It is quite daunting knowing that I will be performing in front of an audience of millions of people on Christmas Eve. Not being able to see anything helps! It’s just me and that piano on the stage.’’ The rising-star is treating this journey as something special, something to be cherished with every second . Alongside writing his own music, Kapeleris is willing to take on every opportunity that comes his way, he’s going to grab it with both hands and never let go!    
Luna on the playground

She's as bright as the…

We’d like to introduce you to someone really special!   Luna is nearly three years old and has approximately 10% vision.   “I had never been around a child who has special needs. When Luna was born it was hard as I just wanted to be in her shoes so she didn’t have to go through what she was dealing with.’’   Sarah was just 19 when she had Luna. When Luna was three months old, she had an MRI scan which showed that she had Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Nystagmus (where her eyes shake) and one eye turned in. There were also concerns that Luna could have pituitary gland problems.   Luna’s dad Jake knew something wasn’t quite right when he noticed Luna wasn’t focusing on certain objects such as the television and the hanging mobile above her bed.   With Luna being their only child he didn’t have much of a reference, but when he spotted other children and their ability to focus, Jake and Sarah decided to speak to a professional about their daughter.   Once Luna had been diagnosed, Sarah and Jake reached out to Vision Australia to seek support.   Luna is now a happy girl who is comfortable at home but still struggles when she is in a new environment.   The hardest thing for Sarah and Jake is not knowing what the future will hold for their daughter.   “We don’t know if Luna is going to need full time help when she’s 30 years old. It’s difficult not knowing what we’re going to be needing in the future to give her an opportunity to live a full and wonderful life.”    
Family sits under a sun tent

It's going to be a hot…

The weather forecast is in and we’re expecting a warm and sunny 31 degrees for Carols by Candlelight 2018. With that in mind, make sure you’re prepared to have a sun smart and well-hydrated Carols.   Preparing for Carols 31 degrees is hot. Make sure to bring sun smart clothing, hats, and water. If you’re planning on queuing up through the day, make sure you have sun screen and sunglasses. Make sure you reapply your sunscreen every two hours! Any water bottles you bring into the Sidney Myer Music Bowl will need to be emptied before you enter the venue, but you can refill them inside the venue. Water stations are located at the back of the hill, to the right after entering at Gate 1, and inside the Christmas Festival next to our range of food trucks. If you’re feeling the heat, or if you feel unwell for any reason, we have first aid stations set up thanks to St John’s Ambulance. These are at the back of hill, to the right after entering at Gate 1, and inside the Christmas Festival. Run out of sunscreen on the night? No problem! Our first aid stations have extra sunscreen available. As well as water, you can bring your own non-alcoholic beverages on the night. Beverages need to be sealed and in containers not made of glass. Also to be considerate to other guests try and only bring a reasonable amount, a slab of soft drink per person is probably too much. To make sure you get enough shade you’re welcome to bring umbrellas to keep the sun away. Please only bring personal sized umbrellas, without pointy ends (for safety reasons) and make sure they are folded away by 7:45pm so that everyone can see the main performances. If you need a bit of shade but haven’t brought an umbrella, our Christmas Festival area has plenty of shade, as well as activities, rides, and food.   Have questions about what else you can and can’t bring into Carols? Check out our guide here.
Melbourne tram

The best way to get to Carols

So you’ve got your tickets, and you’ve prepared your picnic and your blanket, but what’s the best way to get to Carols? We’ve prepared this little guide to help you have a happy and painless experience getting to the event. Public transport The best way to find out how you should get to Carols on public transport is to check www.ptv.vic.gov.au. PTV have a journey planner which can help you work out the best route from your door to the event. The PTV website will also let you know if there are any delays or issues on the day, so check in! If you’re coming into the city by train the Sidney Myer Music Bowl is about a 15 minute walk (about one kilometre) from Flinders Street station through the Queen Victoria Gardens. You can also catch a tram from Federation Square outside Flinders Street station to the Grant St stop and walk from there. Driving in If you want to drive to Carols make sure you’ve worked out where to park. There will be some accessible parking available on Linlithgow Avenue right outside the Bowl for people with Parking Permit for People with Disabilities. If you’re using these parking spots make sure you have your sticker or pass to display! The next closest available parking is Arts Centre Melbourne, a 10-minute walk from the venue. The best way to enter the Arts Centre Melbourne Car Park is to take the Sturt Street Exit from City Road (when travelling west-bound on City Road) and make a left into the Arts Centre Car Park. Please note that due to road works, you cannot access Southbank Boulevard from St. Kilda Road. Dropping off If you’re getting dropped off at Carols the best spot for you is the corner of Linlithgow Avenue and Government House drive. Friendly staff from the Arts Centre will be based there to offer assistance. If you need assistance there will also be a golf buggy taking people from the corner of Linlithgow Avenue and Government House drive into the Bowl. You can pre-arrange this service by contacting Arts Centre Melbourne on 1300 182 183 or on the day by speaking to Arts Centre staff.   However you’re getting to the event we’re looking forward to seeing you there! And if you’re thinking of travelling light why not read about all the food and drink we’ll have available onsite?

Shine BRIGHT this Christmas

Photo of Parker smiling

Carols by Candlelight sees the community come together to support children who are blind or have low vision and their families. All of the funds raised through Carols by Candlelight provide services for kids across the country, whether it’s through orientation and mobility for schools and kindergartens, sports and music activities, or our Feelix library.

We want to make Christmas brighter for kids like Parker here to live the life they choose.

Find out more about the services we provide by visiting the Vision Australia website: www.visionaustralia.org

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