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MSG’s Garden of Dreams Foundation makes dreams come true with music

The nonprofit is holding its annual talent show for kids facing obstacles and its first-ever two-part benefit concert at the Beacon Theatre.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels may have been a founding member of Run-DMC, one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time, but it’s his role within MSG’s Garden of Dreams Foundation that he feels may have been his destiny all along.

In 2000, when he was in his mid-30s, McDaniels found out that he had been an adopted foster child. Learning the long-kept family secret inspired him to talk about his “shocking revelation” at group homes, schools and homeless shelters and do other forms of youth outreach, which eventually led him to Garden of Dreams, a nonprofit that holds more than 500 events each year for kids facing health, domestic, social, economic and other obstacles.

“I had to come on as board member — I’d been groomed and prepared for this my whole life,” McDaniels said.

Ever since, McDaniels has been one of the most visible faces of Garden of Dreams and has helmed its annual talent show, which will put more than 150 kids on stage at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday.

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“I didn’t perform at Radio City Music Hall until 1993, when I was almost 30 years old — I tell them I’m so jealous of them,” McDaniels said with a laugh. “These kids are just like me, and I always say a kid’s situation shouldn’t deprive them of opportunities to do the things they love and still be a kid and have life-changing experiences. That’s what Garden of Dreams is all about.”

McDaniels said his job as talent director isn’t hard because “these kids have the ‘it’ factor.”

“We think we’re doing great things for these kids, but money couldn’t give us the feeling we get from working with these children. My dream has come true,” he said in a voice heavy with emotion

A Concert for Dreams

Before the kids get on stage at Tuesday’s talent show, they’ll be able to sing and dance along to Friday’s Concert for Dreams, the foundation’s first-ever benefit concert, which will consist of a kids-only matinee and an evening show for adults, both at the Beacon Theatre. All proceeds will benefit Garden of Dreams.

While the kids’ show will also feature Rachel Crow and Grace Vanderwaal, the lineup for both outings will include McDaniels, Matt Nathanson, Gavin DeGraw, Robert Randolph and O.A.R., whose frontman, Marc Roberge, curated Concert for Dreams over the course of 18 months.

“We want to give these kids an experience where they can leave feeling really good,” Roberge said. “Their show is intended solely to get these kids dancing and singing songs that they know — and that’s it. That way, they can always remember, ‘Wow, that was fun. What a great day.’”

O.A.R. is going to open the matinee show with a “really fun medley of hit songs from other artists that kids will know,” Roberge said. “What I really want to do is encourage them to sing these songs by Bruno Mars and everyone else.”

While McDaniels said that “everybody’s crying every minute” of the Garden of Dreams talent show thanks in part to a preview video shown of the obstacles the performers face, Roberge hopes the Concert for Dreams “will be more smiles than anything.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with these kids, so I’ve gotten my cries out of the way,” he said. “I think the times I get to spend with these kids now has been filling me up and making me really happy and inspired.”