Community raises voices in Hallelujah chorus in high school gym

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -- It wasn't a slam dunk or a game winning free throw that had people singing hallelujah in a Panama City, Florida gym on Saturday morning. It was instead a chance to make some noise for goodwill.

It was the brainchild of Sharon Michalik, the Human Resources Director for Bay District Schools. She said she was recently inspired by a video she saw online of a community coming together to sing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

"And when I saw the video, I was just struck by it," she said. "I watched it five times back-to-back-to-back."

She said she wanted to give Bay County the same experience to come together and unite, regardless of age, race, gender or political affiliation.

She took to the stage in the Bay County High School gym to address the more than 100 member makeshift choir. She was joined by local musician, Will Thompson, and his band.

Bay High School students in a marketing class brought the entire event to life. They were responsible for the fliers, online content, filming and social media.

"We may not always agree on everything," Michalik told the crowd, "But it's a great place to live. We have a lot to be grateful for and this is a community that cared about its children and you are a part of that today."

In addition to bringing their voices, the singers were also asked to bring a canned good to donate to help feed food insecure children over the holiday break.

Then, after a brief warm up, they sang.

"To hear all those voices come together and just feel, it just radiates through your body and through your heart," said Jessi Pennington, who brought along her husband and three children. "It was just really powerful."

"It was moving because we were all together," said Bay High freshman, Madison Shows. "And you could see everyone as a congregation and we were all, like, coming together."

"I think that shows what we're trying to promote in this town," said Thompson, who led the crowd in singing. "So when everybody comes along and sing their own park, sings their own song, we couldn't ask for anything more than that."

Michalik said this is the first in what she hopes will become an annual tradition.

"I want them to feel the spirit of the holidays and that I stood next to strangers and sang my heart out for 30 minutes and I just feel great about where I live."

You can learn more about the project here:

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