A special CD for a special cause

Dwight McUmar works for Wal-Mart and sings for Wal-Mart, too, with good reason and motivation.

A part-time employee of the Weirton Super Center, the Weirton resident recently was part of the Wal-Mart Associates Choir that recorded a special CD to help a special cause.

Entitled “Eyes of a Child,” the CD that contains nine songs of various genres – from inspirational and religious to patriotic and Latino – goes on sale at the store Wednesday.

It costs $5, and all proceeds will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.

“The money that is collected locally will stay locally and will help child patients in Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital,” McUmar said.

“This hospital has a special place in my heart because my own grandson, Brodie McUmar, a student at Weir Middle School, was treated for neuroblastoma at this hospital when he was 2 years old. I will never forget the special care that he was given there,” McUmar said.

“The doctors and nurses were amazing, and he is invited back each year for a reunion of the survivors of childhood cancer,” he said.

McUmar became involved in the Wal-Mart Associates Choir in 1999 when its director announced that there would be tryouts to fill 12 openings.

“There were 600 tapes sent to the main office in Bentonville, Ark., and I was one of the 12 chosen,” said McUmar, who sings tenor in the choir that draws members from 32 states.

“I am the only choir member from West Virginia,” said McUmar, who is no stranger to singing.

He serves as the congregational song leader at the Paris, Pa., Church of the Nazarene and is a soloist who sings for various community functions and weddings.

“I was honored to sing the Weir High Alma Mater and the national anthem at the closing of the old Jimmy Carey Stadium and then again at the opening of the new one,” he said.

McUmar also is no stranger to a classroom.

He teaches eighth grade language arts at Wellsburg Middle School where he was named its Teacher of the Year last year. Before teaching at Wellsburg, McUmar taught in Hancock County schools – Weir Junior High for 16 years and Weir High School for 18 years.

“I have received several teaching awards,” said McUmar, who resides with his wife, Angela, who works at the Mary H. Weir Public Library.

McUmar said the choir members were called together March 24-30 to the store’s home office in Bentonville, Ark., to make the CD. The first two days were spent learning the nine songs composed especially for the group by Verl Mason, “a wonderfully talented musician,” according to McUmar.

Songs on the CD include “Celebrate,” “Eyes of a Child,” “Feelin’ of Joy,” “Movin’ Down the Road,” “On Eagle’s Wings,” “Paz En Mi Corazon,” “Share,” “Tell It” and “You’re the Reason.”

The next two days were spent at the Rogers Church of the Nazarene, in Rogers, Ark., recording the CD with a professional recording engineer.

“I was very privileged to work with Sam VonBose and Sherry McIntyre,” he said. “They are both at the home office in Bentonville, and they were responsible for organizing this year’s national event of making a CD.”

McUmar was glad to have been a part of the project.

“The practices were grueling but were worth it,” McUmar said. “I made some wonderful friends and was very privileged to work with many talented singers from all over the country. To be a part of this project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m proud to represent the Weirton Super Center and all West Virginia Wal-Mart associates in this endeavor,” he said.

McUmar expressed appreciation for Coleen Byerly, his store manager, for her cooperation with his expenses. “She was responsible for paying for my lodging, air fare and food for the week. Coleen was more than willing to help with my expenses,” he said.

The experience had its highlights, according to McUmar.

Choir members, for instance, were encouraged to write “Recognition of Excellence” notes to anyone who had helped or inspired them throughout the week.

“I received a note from a gentleman named Benjamin who was from Georgia,” McUmar said. It read, “Dwight encouraged me to hang in there with my early childhood degree, regardless of the dreaded lesson plans.”

On their final Friday together, the choir members had a wrap-up party at the Bentonville Christian Church Recreation Center that featured a potluck meal and karaoke singing.

“It was the perfect end to a perfect, but exhausting week,” McUmar said.

While in Bentonville, McUmar visited the Crystal Garden Museum and Art Gallery of Helen Walton and toured the original Walton 5 & 10, the back of which features a museum. Two of its attractions were Helen Walton’s wedding dress and Sam Walton’s original pickup truck.

The outing also included a “tasting” at Sam’s Club to determine which foods might be purchased for sale; a tour of Raised Floor; and a tour of the Wal-Mart Visitors Center.

“Special guest speakers included Sharon Orlopp, the Wal-Mart executive who was responsible for obtaining permission for us to do the CD, and Celia Swanson, the Wal-Mart executive director of Children’s Miracle Network,” McUmar said.

Each Wal-Mart store has a Children’s Miracle Network goal, he added, noting proceeds from the CD sale will help the Weirton Super Center reach its goal.