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Canadian Paralympic team's new official song a tribute to car crash victim

Songwriter Paul DeRosa's 'Shine' was inspired by his cousin Pat Ferrari, who was paralyzed at the age of 2.

Songwriter Paul DeRosa's 'Shine' was inspired by his cousin Pat Ferrari, who was paralyzed at the age of 2

Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila was handpicked by CBC Music producers to provide the lead vocal on "Shine," the new Canadian Paralympic theme song for the games in Tokyo 2020. (CBC Music)

The Canadian Paralympic team is currently preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, and now they have a rousing new official song to propel them across the finish line. 

"Shine" was written by songwriter Paul DeRosa, as inspired by his cousin Pat Ferrari. In the late 1950s, Ferrari and his parents were involved in a head-on collision; at the age of two, Ferrari was paralyzed from the waist down. 

"I grew up watching my cousin's daily struggles," recalls DeRosa. "I wrote 'Shine' about 15 years ago, to express how I feel about him and his life, or anyone living with a disability for that matter. Up until now, the song has never been released."

The song gave me instant goosebumps. - Martin Richard, Canadian Paralympic Committee

DeRosa also went to high school with Jeff Adams, who went on to become a Canadian Paralympian and a six-time world champion in wheelchair sports. At the age of nine, Adams was paralyzed from the waist down from a spinal injury resulting from cancer treatments. 

Five-time Paralympian and six time world champion in wheelchair sports, Jeff Adams. (City of Thunder Bay/ Submitted)

"I've remained friends with Jeff," says DeRosa. "I was chatting with him a few years ago and told him about my song 'Shine' and how I thought its message could be applied to the Paralympics. Jeff was really encouraging."

DeRosa contacted the Canadian Paralympic Committee in Ottawa, and was put in touch with Martin Richard, the executive director of communications.

"Paul reached out to us about a year ago with the idea of adding Paralympic footage to a song he had written," says Richard. "He wanted to donate this song to us in order to help the Paralympic movement gain more exposure and support. Coincidentally, we [the committee and CBC Sports] were brainstorming on ideas to enhance the coverage of the upcoming Paralympic Games."

Richard was also looking for a way to increase the emotional connection of Canadians to Paralympic sports.

"When I heard Paul's song, I thought that it had strong potential to become the official theme song for the coverage of our upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo," explains Richard. "There was something about the melody and lyrics that stuck with me for days. Then I added the visual of our Paralympic athletes pouring their heart and soul into their athletic performance to the song. The song gave me instant goosebumps."

Veteran rock guitarist Pete Lesperance played lead guitar on the recording of "Shine" at CBC Toronto. (CBC Music)

After hearing "Shine," Richard brought the idea to CBC Sports and CBC Music. The departments collaborated on recording song after some of the lyrics were re-written for wider appeal. CBC Music brought in some of Canada's best session musicians, as well as Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila on lead vocals. 

"Eva's voice brought the song to a whole new level," says Richard. "When you pair talented musicians with a great piece of music and bring them into a studio, you get magic. Walking into that room and witnessing so many talented individuals performing at their best to honour our Paralympic athletes was breathtaking. We are making history with this song." 

What was once a dream is now a reality: DeRosa's "Shine" is the official song of the Canadian Paralympic team for Tokyo 2020. Tim Thompson from CBC Sports edited together the final inspirational video. 

To get this opportunity is something I will never forget and will forever be in my heart."- Paul DeRosa, "Shine" songwriter

DeRosa was able to take part in the recording of the anthem, laying down a guitar part in the studio. 

"When I first started to hear the song coming together in the CBC Music studio, it brought out a lot of emotions," recalls DeRosa. "My dream was coming true! I was honoured to be in a room full of amazing and talented artists. To get this opportunity is something I will never forget and will forever be in my heart."

A string section led by Kevin Fox (right) was brought in to CBC Music to add flourish to the recording of "Shine," the Canadian Paralympic theme song. (CBC Music)

Possibly best of all, DeRosa has been constantly updating his cousin, Ferrari, now 63, with updates of the song originally written for him.

"It puts a smile on his face every time we talk about it," says DeRosa fondly. "The fact is, he was the spark behind 'Shine' that has become a reality. Paul can't wait to see and hear the song played alongside the Paralympians."

Ferrari used to play wheelchair basketball himself at a younger age, and his favourite Paralympic sport is wheelchair racing. He's honoured by the final results of "Shine."

"I feel great about it," says Ferrari. "I love the song, I think it's fantastic. Anything to help the disabled is a great thing."

Songwriter Paul DeRosa with his cousin Pat Ferrari, who has been in a wheelchair since he was two. Ferrari was the original inspiration behind DeRosa's song "Shine." (P. DeRosa)

This fall, "Shine" will also be included in the 2019 Canadian Music Class Challenge, where music classes across Canada will be encouraged to learn the song. Winning classes could even have their version of "Shine" played on the CBC Sports broadcast of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. 

About the Author

Grant Lawrence

Host / Producer

Grant Lawrence is veteran CBC personality with over twenty years of experience in Canadian arts and culture.