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The Garden Of Dreams Foundation, Madison Square Garden’s charity that aims to improve the lives of kids facing an array of obstacles across the tri-state area, is preparing for its annual talent show. It is an event that provides children with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on stage at Radio City Music Hall.

And for that reason, TV personality Hoda Kotb is returning a second time to help out.
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“This is one of those events that you have to do again. You can’t do it once,” Kotb responded when I asked why she reprised her role of “Celebrity Mentor” alongside the likes of gold medalist Nastia Liukin, model Damaris Lewis, The Rockettes, Broadway star Christina Sajous and hip-hop legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. “There are so many events and wonderful charities in New York. This particular one does it exactly right.”

Citing what the participants take from the experience, The Today Show co-host elaborated.

“It transforms lives. It changes the trajectory of someone’s path,” she explained. “You actually can physically watch someone change, and how often does that happen in your lifetime, that you get to watch someone transform right in front of you?”

According to the foundation, over 100 children will participate in the talent show, and each child took a different path to the great stage. For Caroline Waters, she battled Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. The 16 year-old Queens native was diagnosed at age two and began chemotherapy before later receiving a bone marrow transplant from her younger sister, who was just four at the time.

Waters has been cancer-free for 13 years, and chose to perform Andra Day’s “Rise Up” at the event.

“I find it very inspiring,” she said of the track. “It’s such an anthem; everything happens for a reason, so whatever happens, it’ll be OK.”

It’s quite a profound comment from a teenager like Waters who has faced so many trials and tribulations. Yet, her disposition reveals not only how this organization benefits children, but how it also reflects back on to the volunteers.

“I learned that these kids, when you look at the hardships that they have to sort of overcome, you learn that at the base of it we’re all just human beings,” Kotb responded when asked what she took from last year’s talent show. “We all just have basic needs. These kids have such incredible talent and I think sometimes they don’t get a fair shot at it because of where they began.

“I just like this because it puts everyone on the starting line together. Here we all are, together. Now 1, 2, 3: go. That’s how it works, and everyone gets their shot.”

In essence, the talent show gives everyone their own opportunity to rise up.