Etcetera - 5/28/13

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A new children’s book by Walla Walla native Sonja Biggs is truly a family affair. Illustrated with photos by husband Atom Biggs, “Brandon’s Dream” is about their son Brandon’s journey with blindness and achieving his goals.

A Walla Walla High School Class of 1977 alumna, Sonja hopes to inspire other children with Brandon’s life and achievements despite challenges he faces daily as a blind performer.

“He is my inspiration and has pushed me to achieve in my own life,” she said. She teaches other children who are blind and does independent evaluations throughout the state of California, where the Biggs family now lives.

“Brandon’s Dream” describes how her son, although born blind, has followed his aspirations to act and sing on stage. He is making this happen “through hard work, perseverance and the full support of his family,” Sonja said.

Brandon was born in Spokane and grew up in the Walla Walla Valley, where he attended Dixie Elementary, Walla Walla High School and was homeschooled.

He’s the grandson of Dick and Shirl Phillips, active members of the Walla Walla community through their volunteer service with Fort Walla Walla Museum, the Rose Society and 4-H.

Brandon began acting in middle school when he debuted in “The Frog Prince” and won awards for his monologues in speech contests, Sonja said.

His first role in community theater, that of cowardly teenage bully Noah Claypole, was through Touchet Valley Arts Council’s “Oliver!”

TVAC cast him as the prince in “Beauty and the Beast” and he was a guard in the Walla Walla Community College Foundation production of “Cinderella.” Since then, Brandon has performed in many musical theater roles throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including as Rolf in “The Sound of Music,” the bishop in “Les Miserables,” and Ron Taylor in “Bat Boy the Musical.”

A bass-baritone, he’s performed in two operas and an operetta, and given numerous private vocal performances.

Currently pursuing a bachelor’s with honors in music from California State University in Hayward, he is studying vocal performance in opera. Find out more about Brandon online at www.brandonkeithbiggs.com and like his Facebook music page, Brandon Keith Biggs.

Brandon was born with a rare retinal blindness called Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA). Of the 18 known gene mutations that are affected, Brandon’s gene is the CRB-1. His parents, together with others whose children have CRB-1 blindness, have joined to create a foundation that raises money to find a cure for LCA-CRB-1, Sonja said.

The Cure Retinal Blindness Foundation, online at www.crb1.org, consists of several families that are hosting a variety of fundraisers. The dollars raised are given to organizations doing research into finding a cure for this particular blindness. All proceeds from the sale of Sonja’s book are donated for this purpose.

Hardbound, autographed copies of “Brandon’s Dream” are available for $38, which may be sent in check form to Sonja at 7483 Dornoch Ct., Gilroy, CA 95020. Shipping is included.

You can find out more about Sonja at www.sonjabiggs.net or follow her blog at www.visionteachersonja.com.

Atom is a registered nurse and professional photographer. While living in the Walla Walla Valley, he worked at Walla Walla General Hospital. His photographs in the San Francisco Bay Area show the action and beauty of musical theater performances and provide quality headshots to the actors in the area. His photos can be viewed at www.atomsportraits.com.

Joshua Biggs, Brandon’s younger brother, attended Dixie Elementary and Pioneer Middle School. He was also homeschooled. He recently completed high school in his junior year and has been accepted at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Wash. Sonja said he’s excited to return to Washington state to pursue a bachelor’s in game design.


Walla Walla Noon Rotary Club’s Youth Services Committee presented $640 to the Walla Walla County 4-H Program to provide premium awards for its more than 70 4-H youths during their annual public speaking contest.

Public speaking is just one of the valuable life skills the young folks learn while participating in 4-H. Members Maddie Fenton and Erin Chapin from Ranch & Home 4-H Club accepted the award.

For more details about the WSU Extension 4-H Youth Program see www.wallawalla.4h.wsu.edu or call 509-524-2685.

Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at annieeveland@wwub.com.

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