After doing a chicken dance with a stuffed animal ladybug on his head, children’s performer Oklin Bloodworth switches gears to a song with a more serious message.
Before he starts, Bloodworth asks a group of more than 80 children sitting under a shade canopy outside Fashion Fair Mall in Fresno a question: “What is the one thing that everybody has the same?”
One child says a face. Another says arms.
“OK, let’s go deeper,” Bloodworth says, pointing to his heart.
A little girl responds: “Feelings.”
“She nailed! That’s exactly what this song is about.”
He’s a fun, energetic, loving, caring man.
Some feeling lyrics: “I notice one thing about every face that I see. No matter who they are, no matter where they’re from, they are all the same! … Like me, like you, everybody feels like me and you.”
That message is central to Bloodworth’s songs. He wants to connect people and promote compassion and kindness in the world.
The Madera man does that through his music – even though he can no longer sing all the words.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that’s attacking his lymph nodes, has weakened his voice. Since his diagnosis in February of 2015, he has endured 10 months of chemotherapy. The treatments cleared the cancer twice, but each time, Bloodworth says, it comes back stronger. The cancer reappeared in his body three months ago.
It warms my heart that someone who goes through that much can still give back to the community.
To keep performing, he does some lip-syncing to recordings of his songs. The retired school music teacher has been a children’s music performer since the early 1990s. He regularly plays at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Fresno County libraries, school assemblies and outside Fashion Fair Mall for a Kids Club sponsored by National Geographic – along with at countless birthday parties and other children’s events.
At the free Kids Club event on Tuesday, young children sang, danced and clapped along to his songs, colored a picture of a lion, and ended the hour-long event with raffle prizes and by saying a kind word into Bloodworth’s microphone. Some of the gems: Mom is pretty, daddies are good, I like my sister, teachers are No. 1, and I like T-rexes.
Bloodworth says it’s the children that enable him to keep performing despite his cancer.
“Every child I see gives me energy to make it through that particular event with more energy than I started with,” Bloodworth says. “Because right now, I’m weak. I need to eat more, and so that word (eat) has to be pasted everywhere in my house.”
People you touch with kindness and respect, they will remember that for the rest of their lives, and so will I.
Bloodworth’s ability to keep singing through the pain is inspiring to preschool teacher Vonda Calhoun, who was the chaperone for 18 children at the Kids Club event from Better Choice Preschool in Fresno.
“A lot of these kids that we work with need to see strong people like that,” she says of Bloodworth. “It will help them with everything else that’s going on.”
Her daughter is also a cancer survivor. Calhoun encourages her to stay active like Bloodworth has.
“I tell her, ‘You stay active and you stay involved, it just makes you feel better.’ And if you feel better, it seems to help.”
Bloodworth also made a big impression on Maria Rios of Fresno, who has been taking her children, Thylie, Zazil and Junior, to his monthly events since her eldest was 2. Rios says the events helped her children learn English, and that Bloodworth always has a positive message to share: “To share with other kids and be kind.”
“I like this place,” 11-year-old Thylie says. “You can learn new things.”
If you want love, give love. If you want kindness, give kindness. If you want acceptance, accept.
Nearby, Beth Mercer of Fresno sat with 4-year-old daughter, Cierra.
“How does your heart feel?” Mercer asked Cierra.
Cierra likes singing and dancing at Bloodworth’s events “to be with my mommy.”
Mercer likes that Bloodworth brings people together.
“It’s important that we know our neighbors and the people around us,” she says. “We want to grow love in our hearts.”
That’s what it’s all about for Bloodworth.
“If I can’t uplift someone’s life,” he says, “there is no reason for me to live here today, I’m useless. … Over the years, I’ve gained more and more and more of an understanding that if you don’t give it, you don’t get it. So quit asking for what you are not getting. If you want love, give love. If you want kindness, give kindness. If you want acceptance, accept.”
Support Oklin Bloodworth
Oklin Bloodworth has a number of free performances, including a Kids Club event from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month outside the Fresno Fashion Fair Mall entrance across from the Cheesecake Factory and at a number of Fresno County libraries. A schedule of library performances is available online at fresnolibrary.org. Many of his songs are also available through iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Bloodworth with medical expenses. He has raised about $8,500 of a $36,000 goal to go to a Gerson Therapy Institute clinic in Mexico. Bloodworth says funds will cover airfare and the cost to have practitioners assess his cancer, formulate a special nutrition plan and train him to prepare nutrient-rich foods and drinks. Bloodworth chose this treatment path after failed attempts to cure his cancer with chemotherapy.