A talent competition for people with special needs has landed 15-year-old Breanna Bogucki of Cary a new single and a new dream.
Bogucki, who now goes by the stage name "Breanna Alyssa," won Special Talents America last November, beating out about 40 acts that auditioned and eight other finalists.
The victory came with a professional recording session with Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Jim Peterik, known best for several Survivor songs, including "Eye of the Tiger," as well as his band, The Ides of March.
So impressed by Bogucki, Peterik went beyond that.
A judge of the competition, he teamed with Lisa McClowry, emcee of the event and a singer and songwriter, to actually write an original song for Bogucki to record.
The two met and talked with Bogucki, who has obsessive compulsive disorder and high-functioning autism, and her mother, Mary Ellen, on several occasions to craft the lyrics and create a song relatable to her and others her age.
Of the song, McClowry wrote, "What I really wanted to get out of Breanna was vulnerability. Being young and having special challenges, I imagine she is building up all kinds of walls and anger. So this song was a way for her to let go and let the walls down, and reveal that she does get hurt. That makes her more human, and I think a lot of young people identify with that."
The song, "I Was Born Yesterday," has been released on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby and has catapulted Bogucki into the music business.
"It's just about my life and how I feel and everything," Bogucki said.
In the fall, she will be a sophomore at Cary Grove High School, where her mother said she always had tried to blend in.
"She's had a struggle with life because I always say she falls in between two worlds," Mary Ellen said. "She is high-functioning, but she doesn't fit into the regular world. And she doesn't fit completely into the special needs world. In the last year, she's kind of found her place and it's been awesome to see."
Since the song's release, her peers have bought the single and supported her in other ways.
"It has boosted her confidence," Mary Ellen said.
With a theme of not taking advantage of others and using words carefully, the song basically describes what Bogucki has faced through the years.
Her favorite line includes the words, "I get hurt so easily," she said.
A slide show and audio of the song recently played before about 10,000 people at the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics Illinois State Games in Normal, and Bogucki performed the song live during the event's closing ceremonies. The audience, including McClowry, cheered.
"The moment she walked on stage, she connected with the crowd," McClowry said. "They loved her."
Bogucki also earned five gold medals in the artistic gymnastics competition at the Summer Games.
She next will perform two songs at the Sunday, June 23, "A Taste of Red, White& Brew Festival" in McHenry to benefit the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association Foundation. Bogucki participates in numerous NISRA activities and events.
"I think it's really cool I have the experience to do all this because that what I dream about doing," she said. "When I was younger, I always wanted to sing in front of people. When I got to do that over the weekend, it made all the kids happy."