Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019, joined with international partner Sing for Hope to bring joy and healing to Duke University Children’s Hospital in the form of a special Sing for Hope Piano by Noël Copeland. Though Nia was crowned Miss America in September 2018, this story is many years in the making.
In 2011, when Nia Franklin was barely 18, her father James began what would be a years-long battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In 2013, Nia played an integral role in his healing: she donated stem cells to her father as a patient at Duke Children’s Hospital.
“Nia saved my life,” said James Franklin. He is adamant that his healing was multi-faceted, saying, “Music is an extremely important part of the healing process. I’m very proud of Nia. I remember how uplifting it was when my wife would come into my room and sing to me. It gave me the will to keep fighting. Often, when someone experiences an illness, everything is about the science of how we are going to heal. Not everyone focuses enough on the emotional part of the healing process.”
Sing for Hope has long advocated for the fundamental role of the arts in healing not just the heart, but the body and mind. Doctors agree—a survey of 1,000 UK doctors revealed a widespread belief that arts-based interventions can help deliver primary care to the public, and the arts are increasingly used around the world to treat depression. While all of Sing for Hope’s work has an inherent healing component, Sing for Hope’s Healing Arts initiative brings the arts specifically to healthcare facilities.
Nia Franklin found a creative and charitable outlet in Sing for Hope, becoming an SFH Artist Partner soon after she moved to New York. When she became Miss New York in 2018 (she had turned to the Miss America Competition to help support herself through school), Franklin focused on arts’ social impact, continuing her work serving NYC as an Artist Partner in Sing for Hope’s hometown. When Franklin became Miss America 2019, she saw the ability to use the platform for good through Sing for Hope: a chance to take her strong belief in the arts, education, and healthcare to a national stage, and to give back to the hospital that helped her save her father.
Says the Miss America Organization, “As an arts education advocate, Franklin is spending her year as Miss America advancing her social impact initiative focused on creating opportunities for children and adults to enjoy the educational and emotional benefits of music. She has worked extensively with Sing for Hope, an organization driving the international movement for increased inclusion of the arts in global convenings centering on social change.”
By partnering with Sing for Hope to dedicate a new piano to Duke University Hospital, Franklin will leave a lasting impact on children and families just like hers.
“Music is a huge part of our program because we believe in creating a healing environment for all of our patients and their families,” said Musician in Residence, William Dawson. “With Nia’s help in acquiring a special Sing for Hope Piano, she is contributing to the healing environment of Duke University Hospital.”
Franklin’s mother, Kristy, proudly joined daughter Nia to celebrate the special partnership. “When this stem cell transplant came around, we had no idea becoming Miss America was on the horizon for Nia. I really see this opportunity as our life coming full circle. Nia knew early on how people appreciate music and how it made people feel good. She has embraced that as a way to give back, especially in healing,” said Kristy Franklin.
The Franklin family, Sing for Hope, Duke Children’s Hospital (DCH), and Children’s Miracle Network came together to dedicate the special Sing for Hope Piano to the families of DCH. Before the official ribbon cutting ceremony, Nia and Sing for Hope COO Richard Robertson visited with patients and families during arts and crafts sessions at Duke on Monday. The group formed a quick bond through their art project, even trying on Nia’s crown, and it’s no surprise—Nia is a very vocal advocate for our country’s young people. Visiting with patients across the country as a Sing for Hope Artist Partner and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Ambassador is an important part of Franklin’s role as Miss America. In addition to her work with Sing for Hope, Franklin has also worked with Lincoln Center, ASCAP, and the Juilliard School to bring attention to the need for more arts education in schools. This Sing for Hope partnership with Duke Children’s Hospital addresses yet another barrier young people—faced with illness that threatens the innocence and creativity of childhood—may face in accessing the healing power of the arts.