For Darren Satriano, mastering the cello has been a long-held goal. Darren first took up the instrument at the age 7, despite suffering from hemiplegia, a weakness that affects one side of the body. That is, until Darren began working with Valhalla’s Blythedale Children’s Hospital and their forward-thinking Intensive Upper Extremity Summer Program.
The innovative six-week program is designed for children, typically between the ages of 5 and 10, with weakness or decreased use of one arm due to traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, or other diagnoses. Students engage in activities like sports, self-care, arts and crafts, and sensory play to help them improve their mobility as well as build strength and functionality.
According to Darren, the program also helped him master the instrument he adores. “I love the sound of the cello, and I really enjoy playing it,” says the 11-year-old, who began working on the instrument this past year as part of the Upper Extremity Program, where he’s been a student for three years. It’s there that he began strengthening his right hand to hone his ability to hold and control the bow. His favorite song to play is “Aunt Hessie’s White Horse.”
But Darren has plenty of dreams beyond the cello. “I want to be a chef, an ice cream man, and a veterinarian when I grow up,” he says, adding that he hopes to continue performing the music he loves. He also plans to continue his work at Blythedale, where he’s been engaging in strength-building and motor-skills exercises, such as cutting apples, doing pushups, and catching and throwing a ball.
Yet, no matter where life takes him, Darren is thankful for what he has learned at Blythedale Children’s Hospital. “Blythedale really helped me use my right hand. They helped me train it, and now I am getting a lot better at [playing the cello],” he says. “I love it. It’s really fun.”