Eden Gross wants kids to know that they’re not alone when they feel afraid.
“I get really scared sometimes,” said the Florida fourth-grader, who has often been drawn to dark, suspenseful stories. At age 8, Eden started writing songs to cope with her fears. Last month, she released her first song, “Shadows on the Wall.” It’s dedicated to kids everywhere who struggle with mental health.
The point of the song is that fears “aren’t the reality,” said Eden, now 10. “I am bigger than these fears.”
Eden began writing the lyrics to “Shadows on the Wall” in 2019 after attending the Throga Retreat, a youth singing and performance program about two hours from her home in Parkland. There, she met Johnny Cummings, a New York-based singer, songwriter and producer. After the retreat, the pair worked together each week through Skype. They finished “Shadows on the Wall” and a second song, “The Last Kid on Earth,” which centers on the idea that although each person is different, we all feel alone sometimes.
The plan had been to wait until Eden wrote one more song, then have all three professionally recorded, said mom Shirley Gross. Then the coronavirus pandemic occurred, and Eden wanted to share her message of hope with other kids.
“I can help them feel good about themselves, see the light and be themselves,” she said.
In March this year, Eden recorded her first two songs at Vanquish Studio in Davie, Florida. Cummings and Sam Polizzi, a music producer with Throga Records, provided help by Zoom.
“Shadows on the Wall,” which costs $1.29, is available for download on music websites. A portion of the record’s proceeds will benefit Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options (JAFCO), an agency supporting children, and Eagles’ Haven, a wellness center for Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community. Donating these funds is Eden’s way of giving back and helping those who have struggled during the pandemic, said her dad, Bobby Gross.
Eden wants more adults to understand the pandemic’s impact on children.
“Kids have been affected by it the most,” she said. “They’re used to running around, playing with their friends.”
Adjusting to new realities — such as wearing masks and attending school remotely — was really hard, Eden recalled.
“You start getting angry at the fact that you have to wear masks. You start getting angry at the fact that you [have to] stay home,” said Eden, until you’re finally “jumbled up in your own angry thoughts.”
Eden and her twin brother, Jordan, recently marked one year of distance learning. Though it was strange at first, “Zoom has become our whole world,” said Eden. “Technology has become our new way of connecting.”
One lesson from the pandemic, said Eden, is to “find a way to do what you love and be who you are, no matter the environment.”
For Eden, that means spending time with the family’s puppy, Ollie, and continuing to pursue her passions for music and writing. She’s working on a third song, “The Voices.”
“It’s about judging yourself in your head when you say, ‘I’m not good enough,’ ” she said. “And then realizing, ‘I am good enough. I am good enough for me.’ ”