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The Enchanted Amazon: a book, a song and the power of community

Experience ties strangers from Millard, Papillion and Arcadia, Neb. "Music is healing. It is community-building. It connects people."
Posted at 1:58 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 14:58:29-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Keely Holcomb has a colorful imagination. Not even cancer could steal it.

Through Sing Me A Story and Angels Among Us, Keely's book, The Enchanted Amazon, became a song - written by Omaha-based composer Dmitrii Shaposhnikov, and performed by the Papillion La Vista High School Band.

Continue reading for the expanded version of the story.

Reading, Keely Holcomb shared a passage: "With her work complete, Mom headed back to Unicornland."

Keely's mom, Cami Bergman, looked on.

"Her - just reading the words on the page... at one point, I didn't know if I would ever get a chance to hear her read, you know?"

At three years old, Keely was diagnosed with leukemia.

"I made a point to be very honest with her at all times. If something was going to hurt, I told her it was going to hurt," Cami recalled.

Keely's little body endured 794 days of treatment. These days, she's doing great, and can not only read, but wrote The Enchanted Amazon.

You'll find beavers, birds, bats and more as Keely and her family embark on magical missions to save the animals. Through Sing Me A Story, Keely's work was set to music written by Omaha composer Dmitrii Shaposhnikov.

"My piece is modern and classical at the same time," he explained.

Dmitrii followed the contours of Keely's story - some vibrant, others dramatic.

"To me, music is like a driving force - like a journey."

The nearly 12-minute piece was performed at Papillion La Vista High School's spring concert. Director Tim Keller shared with 3 News Now's Mary Nelson what he saw when he turned around at the end of the song.

"Joy and happiness. Keely had a copy of her book with her and it was just wound tight," he said smiling.

She had waited so long. The process of getting to the reveal started last August.

"Music is healing. It is community-building. It connects people," Mr. Keller added.

None of the people involved knew one another before this experience. The family lives three hours away in central Nebraska. They're forever connected now - by song and sentiment.

As she looked back, Keely said, "I knew that other people had cancer like I did... and I just knew I was not alone."

She hopes, in sharing her book and this joyful journey shaped by strangers, that we all realize we're never alone.

To hear the song in full, click here. You can also donate through the link. Any money raised is split between Sing Me A Story and Angels Among Us.

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