Colorado Springs singer and ‘sneakerhead’ uses music to share how faith saved his life | Lifestyle

Cory Ard has a thing for smiling and sneakers.

He also has a thing for singing and service.

You would’ve seen Ard show all this off during an Easter service at Zeal Church in Colorado Springs, where he and his wife, Ryann, are members and worshippers on stage.

You would’ve seen light blue Nike sneakers and a matching jacket on Ard, while he held his hands up wide enough to match his smile.

Look at him now. The 30-year-old could easily tell himself that sometimes as a mantra. As a kid, he couldn’t see this kind of life ahead. Not one so bright.

He was a baby when his dad went to jail for attempted murder. Then it was a couple of guys who abused his mother or abused him, the kind Ard now calls “consistent examples of bad men.”

One man, who was serving in the military and living at Fort Carson, brought the family to Colorado Springs from Washington D.C. when Ard was 6.

The bad things Ard witnessed and felt took a toll. “I became attracted to the bad crowd,” he said. “I was very rebellious.”

It happened in middle school, when he got expelled each year.

Soon, Ard, his brother and some friends started a rap group.

“For us, it was more about the brotherhood that grew out of it,” he said. “It was a reason to hang out.”

The group grew to have 200 members, Ard said, and became known for gang activity.

“It was a bunch of young kids trying to be cool and trying to be gang members,” Ard said.

By his junior year, he found reasons to try something else.

“I started wanting something different,” he said. “I felt a desire to not be like the same men I knew who ended up dead or in jail.”

Motivation first came from his mother, who found out her sons were part of the group’s fights and shootouts.

“She said, ‘You’re walking in the same path as your father,’” Ard said. “She just cried and asked us to stop.”

It then came from a girlfriend who inspired Ard to write poems about puppy love and turn them into songs. He felt a spark of passion for something. He was good at something.

Finally, it came from God.

“I needed change and I just felt this tug that it was church,” Ard said. “I felt like, ‘I’ve tried things my way.’”

He asked his mom to take him to church.

He said “yes” to the life he saw for himself there. He told his gang: “I’m done.”

“I gave my life to the Lord,” Ard said. “And I never looked back.”

He finished high school and kept going to church. He invited his former friends to join and found another passion for sharing his faith.

He got a job doing music outreach with World Challenge, a Colorado Springs-based Christian evangelism organization; he still works there seven years later. He also began sharing his faith through music as a singer, songwriter and rapper.

He released an album called “The Blackout” in 2018 with a goal to “show and encourage my generation there is a better way,” he said in a video raising money for the project.

Ard had another fundraising strategy, thanks to being a longtime “sneakerhead.”

He bought and resold shoes for album money. He also traded shoes for help from collaborators.

Recently, Ard used shoes for something else. His collection, mostly including Nikes, is displayed neatly on shelves in one of his home recording studios.

His “shoedio,” as it’s called, can be colorful as seen in the backdrop of social media videos. He plans to use it more for upcoming music videos and for recording songs with his wife.

So far, the show wall has drawn eyes and fire emojis on Instagram. Ard hopes people will stay for other posts about his music, faith and life.

“What God has taken me out of and brought me to is powerful,” he said. “I used to be in gangs and this is where I am now.”

It’s inspiring, he said, to think about where he is now. It’s crazy, he said, to think about how he used to be such an angry kid.

Look at him now, though, with that smile.

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