BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Michael Oglesby, Seth Bokatzian, Ethan Keller, Gregg Higgins and Ben Sanford are the best of friends. They all graduated from different high schools and came from different backgrounds. They also all have Down syndrome. They had never met until their roads converged at the Exceptional Foundation.
“They are a bright shining light and we are just so happy that they get to spread that joy all over the community,” said Exceptional Foundation Public Relations Director, Robbie Lee.
Although they didn’t know it about each other at the time they met, every one of them had a dream of becoming a star.
“Dancing is my life,” said Michael Oglesby.
“We just started thinking these guys are compatible. They’ve got some charisma. The next thing you know, it snowballed into them wanting to form their own boy band,” Lee said.
And with that, the Backstreet Boys of Birmingham was born.
Michael Oglesby says there’s nothing quite like hearing the crowd cheering his name.
“I feel like a movie star,” Oglesby said.
“When the guys get up there, they feel celebrated, they feel empowered. They should feel that way. Everyone deserves to feel that way,” Lee added.
Word has gotten out about this group of guys who spend their days together at the center, then go home and talk for hours more on the phone each night. The staff says they’ve been inundated with performance requests from across central Alabama.
But, these young stars also have a certain sincerity and a relationship that runs deep.
“What do you love about [your friends?,] Alissa Rothermich asked.
“Because… I need love,” Gregg Higgins replied.
The band says their quest to be noticed on and off stage really comes down to just one word.
“Respect,” Ethan Keller said.
“Respect,” Seth Bokatzian agreed.
“Respect,” Michael Oglesby echoed.
Five friends reminding us all that respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.
“Our guys are like everyone else. They have the same hopes and dreams and desires. They want to feel accomplished and they want to feel important,” Lee added.
The Backstreet Boys of Birmingham preform musical acts well beyond the 90s boy band hits. In facts, they have expanded their set list and are looking for a new and permanent name.