Everyone remembers their first concert, but for 13-year-old Torren Mitchell, the experience was truly epic.
On June 29, Torren got more than front-row seats to see her favorite band, OneRepublic, play the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. The Stony Brook teen also got to meet the group’s members backstage and they gave her a special shout-out during their show.
“There’s a special person in the crowd tonight,” OneRepublic’s frontman Ryan Tedder, Torren’s personal favorite band member, told the audience. “This is her first concert she’s ever attended and I’d like to give it up for Torren.”
Like a typical teenager, Torren spent the night dancing to the music, singing along and taking videos with her cellphone. But at her side throughout it all was a small rolling suitcase, which contained a ventilator that was connected to a tube inserted in her windpipe.
Torren was born with a respiratory disease that requires her to be tethered to a vent, and it’s confined her to hospitals and nursing homes for the first 12 years of her life.
But last summer, with the opening of Angela’s House III in Stony Brook, Torren was able to move into a residential home for the first time. From the outside, the white house on Stony Brook Road looks like every other one on the block, but inside it’s equipped to care for eight children who require vents and round-the-clock medical care.
By living there, Torren is now able to socialize with other children, she can attend school nearby, and she can experience many of life’s simple pleasures -- from shopping at a mall to eating at McDonald’s -- for the first time.
Bob Policastro, executive director of Angela’s House, said even going to a gas station and a grocery store for the first time was exciting for Torren.
“These are things we all take for granted,” he added.
When the Weinstein Co., the film studio behind the soon-to-be-released dramatic film, “The Giver,” heard about Torren’s story, it arranged the concert experience for her. The studio was using part of its marketing budget for the film to give back by granting “First Experiences” to a handful of deserving individuals.
The company also sent a small film crew to document Torren’s first concert, and the video has already been viewed more than 169,000 views on YouTube.
“It was just beautiful to see her reaction to something so new,” said Helene Oswald, a direct care counselor at Angela’s House III who attended the concert with Torren and Torren’s nurse, Stephanie Caroleo.
Oswald said it was Torren’s first visit to a beach, too.
Policastro said he has high expectations for Torren that include attending college, living an independent life and having a career. Inspired by her caregivers, Torren said she wants to become a nurse.
The staff is planning many more first experiences for her including a baseball game and a movie outing once “The Giver” hits theaters later this month. And they’re working on signing her up for Girl Scouts, so she can start giving back to others.
Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsPZhYfyNkc