It’s an exciting new chapter for the Sunshine Kids Foundation as the nonprofit, which focuses on providing quality group activities to children with cancer, joins forces with The UBU Project and Raleigh Studios.

David Simmons of The UBU Project, a performing arts education outreach organization, just completed a week long residency with members of Sunshine Kids at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles.

The famous studios, once home to Charlie Chaplin, hosted these young up-and-coming talents as they bonded through an interactive music-based workshop meant to educate and empower through the exploration of hope, resilience, self-compassion and empathy.

Founded in 1982, Sunshine Kids is a national nonprofit with an expanding footprint thanks to individuals like event manager Laura Mazariegos and Oscar winning spokesperson J.K. Simmons. The Whiplash and Spider-Man actor saw a unique opportunity to pair Sunshine Kids with The UBU Project, helmed by his brother David Simmons.

The latter Simmons, who goes by Mr. David with his young songwriting peers, is the Executive Director and Founder of the UBU Project. Mr. David arrived at Raleigh Studios with his acoustic guitar and the goal of completing an entire song with the Sunshine Kids participants.

“In terms of my expectations (for the week), I try to go into every new experience with hopes and goals and ideas,” Mr. David shares. “I knew this was going to be wonderful because my brother, JK, has been involved for a while and he and I have discussed his experiences with the kids.”

Exceeding their initial goal, Mr. David and his songwriting stars were able to complete two songs and perform both for their families and the Sunshine Kids staff on the closing night.

Closing Night Performance with Families. Photo courtesy of Laura Mazariegos of The Sunshine Kids Foundation
Photo courtesy of Laura Mazariegos of The Sunshine Kids Foundation

“The first song, ‘All I See Is Paradise,’ we wrote in a day and a half,” shares Mr. David. “The second song just fell out of everyone’s hearts and brains within half an hour. Everyone has been really respectful when it comes to rewriting lyrics. This has been a very life affirming experience and I can’t wait to come back.”

“All I See is Paradise,” which was written and recorded at Raleigh Studios, received further development thanks to composer, producer, and sound designer Joe Simmons.

The Sunshine Kids participants were equally excited to share their experiences with the UBU Project residency. Amina, who has been with Sunshine Kids for a couple years, found the experience as a great way to reconnect with her passion.

“I was excited to come to LA everyday and work with Mr. David,” says Amina. “I really like to sing and I had fallen out of it, so this week of writing songs has been great to get back into it.”

Another Sunshine Kids participant, Emily, got her very first creative experience thanks to Mr. David and UBU. “I’ve always wanted to write a song but I never really knew how,” Emily says. “With Mr. David’s format, I feel like I could do it on my own now. I really hope things fall into place for me in the future and I’m on the right track.”

For Ian, Sunshine Kids and UBU have allowed him to explore music in a new direction. His first experiences with music came from his mother, who got him interested in playing the saxophone. “My mom always liked the instrument and now I play saxophone at my local church,” Ian shares. “I’ve always liked songs with saxophone like ‘Careless Whisper.’”

For Ian, he connected with the theme of hope from the four UBU treasure chest words. “Like Emily and Amina, I chose hope… I hope I’m on the right path and have a successful future in life.”

When reflecting on the treasure chest words of hope, resilience, self-compassion and empathy, Chymane chose self-compassion. “Self-compassion is really important,” Chymane says. “You have to care about yourself to talk to other people.”

Chymane has been with Sunshine Kids since she was diagnosed with cancer at age five. She and her family has been very active with the program and Chymane has just received her first musical instrument — a ukulele. “I love music so this is amazing,” Chymane says with a giant smile. She looks forward to continuing her journey in music through playing and songwriting.

Chymane’s brother, DJ, has been an amazing supporter of her journey and the work of Sunshine Kids. During the week long UBU partnership, DJ has been playing the drums while Mr. David plays the acoustic guitar and everyone sings.

“Me and my sister have been a part of Sunshine Kids since she was five years old,” DJ shares. “I do hate that what happened to her happened, but through that unfortunate event a blessing happened when we got all these Sunshine Kids event invitations.”

“This is the first time we’ve ever made music with Sunshine Kids,” DJ says. He stopped playing the drums years ago, but he’s been finding his rhythm once again and is optimistic about continuing. “I really like drumming and some influences for me are Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ and the band Earth, Wind, and Fire,” DJ says.

For information on how to support Sunshine Kids and The UBU Project, please contact Laura Mazariegos and David Simmons at the below emails:

Media Contact:
Laura Mazariegos, Event Manager
Sunshine Kids Foundation

Media Contact:
David Simmons, Founder and Executive Director
The UBU Project

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron Burton is the Awards Editor and Chief Critic at Awards Focus and a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron is a voting member of the Television Academy, Critics Choice Association, and the Society of Composers & Lyricists (the SCL) for his work on Marvel's X-Men Apocalypse (2016). Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's "Behind the Slate" Screening Series and their "Spotlight Live" event at the American Legion in Hollywood. Byron covered the six person panel for Universal's "NOPE" as well as panels for Hulu's "Pam & Tommy Lee" and "Welcome to Chippendales" and HBO Max's "Barry" and "Euphoria."

For songwriters and composers, Byron is a frequent moderator for panels with the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) as well as The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, & Lovecraft Country; Amazon Studios' The Legend of Vox Machina, Wild Cat, & Annette; and Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, Bad Sisters, and 5 Days at Memorial.

In February of 2020, Byron organized and hosted the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

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