Before the year is out, Randolph native Tony DeBlois will have traveled to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Los Angeles, among other places, entertaining at venues nationwide with his music.
DeBlois, 40, is a musical savant who is blind and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. To his mother, Janice DeBlois, who travels with him to every gig, spreading his inspirational message close to home is a treat.
“I think that anything that can show people that someone with autism is capable of all the things (Tony) can do, that he has the same dreams and goals as anyone else, is important,” she said.
Virginia Polio, the head of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas chapter in Braintree, got the message. She said she saw DeBlois play last year in Scituate and knew she wanted to book him to play at the group’s annual fundraiser, which took place Sunday at St. Francis of Assisi Church.
The event was a combination of a luncheon, a bake sale and a silent auction. DeBlois’ renditions of Irish folk songs provided the backdrop for the gathering.
Polio said the money from each ticket sold will go directly toward the Catholic Daughters’ charitable works. The group provides scholarships to students at the St. Francis School. It is also affiliated with several national and international charities, including Smile Train, which provides cleft palate surgeries to children in need.
Polio described Tony DeBlois as an “awesome talent” and praised him and his mother for their strength and positive outlook.
“I thought everyone would enjoy listening to him, and it is a real blessing to have him and his mother here,” she said.
DeBlois knows how to play 22 instruments. He has been playing music professionally since he was 9, and graduated magna cum laude from Berklee College of Music in 1996. Before that, he attended the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown.
He has been recognized for his achievements by the Boston Celtics and many other organizations, and the CBS television movie “Journey of the Heart” was inspired by events from his life. In addition to playing concerts all over the country and around the world, DeBlois does speaking engagements aimed at encouraging other people with disabilities to discover their potential.
After 31 years of touring, Janice DeBlois said, nothing surprises her anymore, but the thrill of helping Tony to share his music and his story is still there.
“It’s nice to give people from our area who have seen him on TV but never seen him in person the chance,” she said.