Source: New Jersey Herald
Austin Halls may not have always been able to smile but that didn’t stop him from singing.
In fact he says he still has a videotape of him singing karaoke when he was just 3 years old.
“I’ve always loved to sing,” he said.
Now 18, the Kittatinny Regional High School graduate and current Sussex County Community College student is using his love of music and performing to raise money for Moebius syndrome, a rare disorder that has caused him facial paralysis and prevented him from smiling with his whole mouth for most of his life.
“I want to raise money to get my EP released and then all the proceeds from its sales will go to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation,” Halls recently told the New Jersey Herald.
The album includes several original songs Halls wrote including “We Are the Same,” a song about everyone being equal no matter how they look on the outside.
This is the second time the Sandyston teen has raised money for the foundation using music, the first being several years ago, when at age 15 he was given the opportunity to record his original EP (Extended Play) with a producer in Nashville.
“It raised over $1,000,” Halls recalls.
The money goes toward the foundation’s biannual conference which costs more than $100,000 to put on, he said.
“It (the conference) changed my life,” Halls said. “Meeting those people (others effected by Moebius) was so powerful.
“They’ve become like a second family.”
Moebius syndrome “is a nonprogressive craniofacial/neurological disorder that manifests itself primarily in facial paralysis. Individuals with Moebius syndrome cannot smile or frown, and do not have lateral eye movements,” according to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation.
Halls said his sixth and seventh cranial nerves are underdeveloped which caused his paralysis and that many who suffer from Moebius also are born without limbs.
“I was lucky to not be born with any of that,” he says.
When he was born he said he could not eat orally and couldn’t swallow and would end up choking on his own saliva.
The disorder also kept him from being able to smile.
Well, he was unable to smile until four “smile” surgeries that took muscles from other parts of his body and implanted them into his face allowed him to finally be able to smile using both sides of his mouth.
“It was really powerful,” Halls said of the first time he was able to fully smile.
“I was always confident, so being able to show how I feel on the inside on the outside was big for me.”
Halls’ mom Beth, called her son’s triumphs “amazing.”
“I always just wanted the best for him and wanted him to be a part of the world like everyone else,”she said. “He has amazed me with everything he’s accomplished. I call him ‘Awesome Austin.'”
Through his music, Halls has been trying to get on “Ellen,” the day-time talk show hosted by comedian Ellen Degeneres, so he can raise awareness and be a role model for those with Moebius syndrome.
Though he has not yet gotten the call to be on the show, Halls said the producers are aware of him and he hopes the call comes soon.
In the meantime, Halls has raised approximately $1,300 of the $1,750 he needs to release his four-song EP through Ponderosa Studios in Lafayette using the website Band Kind, a crowd sourcing website similar to Go Fund Me or Kickstarter, but for musicians.
He hopes through his music he can be a role model and an inspiration for others who have Moebius syndrome.
If he accomplishes his goals, he’ll be flashing that smile he waited so long for.
To donate to Halls’ Band Kind fundraiser, visit www.bandkind.com/austin-halls.