SPRINGFIELD — Andrew Bennett, 12, is a child star, performing on stage locally since he was in kindergarten. He’s also sung before thousands of people at Springfield Thunderbirds and Hartford Yard Goats games.

Bennett’s career hit a crescendo recently when he sang the Star-Spangled Banner on national television at the start of the East-West Shrine Bowl in Texas.

“It was amazing. It really was an honor to sing in front of so many people. I’ve been training for that my entire life. It really was a dream come true,” said Bennett, who is a sixth grader at St. Michael’s Academy in Springfield.

The all-star college football game is sponsored by Shriners International, with net proceeds benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children. Bennett sang at the game because he is a Shriners success story.

Born with Trevor’s disease, a rare bone disorder, it was impossible for Bennett to stand or run without severe pain. Doctors operated on him successfully in December 2022. He has recovered completely and there are no limits to what the 12-year-old can do with friends or other actors on stage. It has been a reversal of fortune that has changed his life.

“I couldn’t run, play or dance because it would hurt so bad. I could barely put any pressure on my foot, but now, after my surgery, I’m all set,” Bennett told Reminder Publishing.

“Now I can run around with all my friends for way longer. I could barely move before. Now I’m completely loose, it’s just amazing,” he said.

Bennett has been taking singing lessons for two years. He wants to be a singer or actor when he grows up — but right now he lights up the local stage as a member of St. Michael’s Players, a community theater group in East Longmeadow. He’s had roles in 13 musical productions — 11 in East Longmeadow and two in Ludlow — and he’s in only the first act of his career.

Bennett most recently had a starring role as Charlie Bucket, a main character in an on-stage production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

“I love performing in front of people. And I love making them happy and smile,” he said.

Bennett has great poise and confidence. He exudes energy and enthusiasm when he talks about performing. He said he wasn’t intimidated at all when he sang at the college all-star game. In fact, the approving and thunderous applause of the crowd left him glowing.

“It felt amazing. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just one of the best feelings you could ever have,” he said.

The national anthem is one of Bennett’s favorite songs and he’s performed it at so many venues. He finds the music to be stirring.

“It’s really meaningful to me because it’s singing about America. And I love America. That’s my home country and the song is so beautiful,” he said.

Bennett may someday be taking deep bows and offering profound thanks to people who have helped him along the way, like music teachers, community theater directors, friends and family who came to see him perform.

He’ll also have a special nod to the medical staff that made it possible for him to stand and enjoy the ovation.

“Their work is so important. The amount of people they help is amazing,” said Bennett. “They have a wonderful mission and a heart of gold.”

Staasi Heropoulos
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