Week 46 & 47: An Invisible Horse and some Visible kids

Project: Horse Farm St. Jude card recycling (Week 46)

and speaking at a high school (Week 47)

Actual Time Taken: 1.75 hours

Week 46

Our first week here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I had every intention of getting up at 8:00 am to help clean stables at a horseback riding therapy charity. But life had other plans for me.

I woke up to a cold, snowy morning and a flat, flat tire. Whomp whomp.

So I had to cancel with these very nice horsey-type people. All I managed to get done for that week of volunteering was recycling all of my various plastic gift cards and forgotten hotel keys, and recycling card covers for St. Jude’s Hospital.

These two projects are super easy, and since the holidays are coming up where you’ll most likely get lots of both holiday cards and gift cards, here’s where to send them when you’re ready.

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Gift cards, hotel keys, keychain cards, oh my!

Why recycle those little plastic cards, you ask? Well, according to Earth911.com, these plastic cards are made up of PVC material, and the website states that 75 million pounds of PVC material enter the waste stream every year! While this material is infinitely recyclable, not many public recycling plants take them, so here’s what you can do!

When the gift cards are spent, wrap them up in an envelope and send them to :

Earthworks c/o Halprin Ind.
25840 Miles Rd.
Bedford, Oh 44146
As for all of those holiday cards, they are remade into new cards by the kids in the St. Jude’s hospitals and sold to “support our programs and services for abused, neglected and homeless children, young adults and families.” You don’t have to limit the kinds of cards you send to just holiday cards either- they take cards for all occasions and currently they specifically need birthday and thank you cards.
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I managed to get a few birthday covers in there too!
So rip off the fronts of all those cards you were just going to throw away after the holidays and send just the pretty front covers to:
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

 

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 The end result

I did all of this in under 15 minutes, so I didn’t quite make my hour goal this week… but there’s still a few weeks left in this year to hit that mark!
Week 47
This week we got to speak at a performing arts high school here in Milwaukee. The kids were all super stoked to ask us all sorts of questions, as most were seniors about to go off to various arts schools. Most already knew they wanted to have a career in the arts, and at the end one guy came up to us and shook all of our hands saying “I’ll be seeing you in two years.” with all the confidence in the world.
I love it. And I don’t doubt it.
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As professional as we always are…
~ ~ ~
Thanks to Earth911.com for the info on recycling gift cards!
Thanks to St Jude’s for the info on the card recycling!

Week 45: Kids and Kitties for one last week in Columbus

Project: Elementary School and Colony Cats

Actual Time Taken: 3 hours

It was our last week here in Columbus, and our last week is always a bit hectic. Between packing, finding a new place to live in the next city, and cramming all the things you meant to do before you left a city, I didn’t have enough time to hit all three places I’ve been volunteering here in Columbus. But the two I did get to were so much fun, and I’m so thankful that they were able to have me again!

I went back to visit my friend who teaches a class of autistic children at an elementary school in a Columbus suburb one last time. Her kids actually remembered me, which I didn’t expect, and one child said “Oh, the Lion King agaaaain?” when I walked in. I thought it was hilarious, replying that it was nice to see him too.

I didn’t have any coloring pages to bring, so I helped them with their afternoon activities on the iPad, played a few board games, made fun sand castles with some weird kinetic sand, and helped them with counting on the computer. I was so happy to see their completed Lion King gallery of watercolor works of art from the coloring pages I had brought them the last week. We had a great time, with one of them asking if I could “Come back in two days?” I replied that I so wish I could, and believe me, if I lived here, I would be in that class room every week. Those kids seriously stole my heart.

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Their Lion King watercolor art gallery

On the way out I got to pop into the teachers bathroom and was amused by the sensation that was clearly left over from my own elementary school years- I wasn’t supposed to be in there- only teachers are allowed in the teachers lounge! Oooooo, I’m gonna tell!!! (Some things never change, huh?) Hanging on the wall in the stalls were adorable white boards for the teachers to ‘talk’ to each other, which I found hilarious.

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Official teacher-bathroom ‘grafiti’

I also got to make one last trip to the Colony Cats, and I found that as I was cleaning, I kept looking out for that tiny little black kitten who was so in love with me last week.

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A fully occupied cat-tree-apartment

I made my way though the various rooms in the colony, cleaning as I subtly searched for Mario. I felt like a girl at a school dance, hoping that the boy I had a crush on was there, but not being overt in my search for him.

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No sign of Mario here in the nap room… (Who am I kidding- they’re all the ‘nap’ rooms)

As I went along I found evidence of the same shenanigans that my cat gets into at my house, including his fascination with rolls of paper, be it of the toilet or of the towel variety.

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<– Paper towel and toilet paper rolls

just aren’t safe here… —>

I still couldn’t find my little friend, so I went next door to where they keep the ill cats in quarantine, for their own healing and to mitigate their contagion from spreading though out the population. Each cage had a tag attached to it explaining the cat’s ailment or background and some of them were absolutely heart breaking. Some were ‘surrenders,’ from owners who no longer wanted the cat, and some had serious illnesses, such as one kitten who was battling cerebal palsy.

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  <— The quarantined kitties and their life stories —>

This side of the Colony was hard to see, but it was also really great to see what great care these cats are getting, even if they are being rescued while battling some kind of illness.

I looked high and low in both rooms of the Colony and couldn’t find the affectionate black kitten from last week. Finally, I asked one of the volunteers about his fate, and she cheerfully reported that he had been adopted out.

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Mario is at some loving home somewhere in Columbus now. What a lucky family to have such a love bug!

Part of me was terribly disappointed- I had already decided that if he was still at the Colony I would take him home. But another part of me was relieved. We really don’t have room in our lives for another pet right now, and I was so happy to hear that he had found a forever home with a  loving family. I mean, who could blame them- he was the cutest, most affectionate cat I had ever seen! Of course he was adopted. So I heaved a heavy sigh, perked up at the thought of him having a good home, and finished up cleaning the Colony one last time.

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Another super sweet kitty who needs a home!

I had such a great time volunteering at all the places I got to in Columbus- from petting bunnies to scooping litter to hanging out with some very special kids, Columbus was surprisingly fun for me, and I will definitely miss these very special non-profits when I leave at the end of the week!

All pictures by me!

Week 44: The week I almost made a huge life mistake…. (Or Bunnies, Kitties, and Kids, oh my!)

Project (s): Ohio Rabbit Rescue, Colony Cats, and an Elementary School visit

Time Taken: 4.5 hours

I went for the Volunteering in Columbus trifecta this week by hitting three non-profits in seven days.

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I really had my hands full this week. (See what I did there?)

I started the week off volunteering at the Ohio House Rabbit Rescue again by  socializing the bunnies, but this time I had backup. A couple of girls from the cast expressed interest in volunteering at the rabbit rescue with me, so I brought them along this week.

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Volunteering is a serious business. Clearly.

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Deidrea getting in some quality time with Snowball.

A total of four of us descended upon the Ohio Rabbit Rescue house that afternoon (trust me, it’s easy to round up people to pet bunnies for an hour) and spent a few hours petting, cooing, and giggling with the buns as they hopped around their pens happily. It was a win-win situation, for sure.

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Our PT Dionne doing some good!

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Cuddle time for Friar!

A few days later, I went to an elementary school where my friend teaches a special needs class. She has numerous assistants, but the more the merrier, so I came in for an hour at the end of a school day. I brought some Lion King coloring pages and we showed them the YouTube preview of the show, so they would understand why a strange lady showed up one day with coloring pages from an ‘ancient’ movie, as far as their five-year-old lives were concerned.

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A preview on YouTube of our show, projected on their awesome SmartBoard.

(It’s a white board that you can interact with computer programs on! We live in the future!)

I had so much fun playing with the kids, helping them move from station to station around their classroom. Each student had their own schedule to follow each day, which kept them on task for this free hour at the end of the school day. My coloring pages became a station unto itself and the watercolors were broken out, which is a rare treat for them. When they were done, they got to tape up their works of art on the wall for all to see, and it was so great to see them add their creations one by one.

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A few of their pieces of art.

To round out my week, I hit up the Colony Cats again. I started off this week cleaning the kitten room, which is exactly as heaven-like as it sounds- a room full of kittens, all clamoring for your love and attention.

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Kittens, kittens everywhere!

These kittens were very determined to not have me work. One kitten thought the brush was a toy and dueled with me the entire time I was brushing his cat tree.

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Hey. You. Human. Stop working and play with me.

After shooing away the first meddlesome kitten, I bent down for a hairball and I felt four paws land on my back. I looked up to find Rascal, an 8 month old orange tabby, who felt like going for a ride.

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Giddy up human!

While I was de-velcrowing Rascal from my sweater, another kitten had decided that the paper towel roll was the perfect size to be his sparring partner, and I turned around to find him wrapped around the roll, chewing up the towels with abandon.

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Not. Helpful.

Some kittys aren’t as meddlesome, but more lonely than anything. Certain cats just need some extra love, and they’re not afraid to ask for it.

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Kitty climbing up my leg for loves.

Most of these persistent kitties go away after a few pets, but one kitten did something I’ve never seen before. I bent down to clean the base a cat tree when a tiny 7 month old black kitten named Mario walked straight up to me and literally climbed up my chest. He wrapped his two little paw on either side of my neck, nestled his face into mine, and I melted. I let him have a little snuggle time, but when I tried to put him down to finish cleaning, he proceeded to climb right back into hugging-position.

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Hugz. I needs them.

“What are you doing??” I asked, slightly surprised. He was so in need of love and attention, he could not be deterred. I must have tried to put this kitten down about five times and five times he climbed me like a tree. At one point he realized that he could perch on my back as I cleaned, and decided that my back was where he wanted to stay for the rest of the time I was there.

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Mario taking a snuggle ride.

I was fully in love. Phillip came by to pick me up and I showed him this tiny ball of love. He picked Mario up to see what all the fuss was about and the kitten promptly fell asleep in his arms.

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Phillip is a popular napping spot for our furry kids too.

“We are taking him home.” Phillip declared with absolute finality.

We were so close to just throwing him in a box and walking out the door, but we forced ourselves to walk out of the Colony to clear our heads. But for a good hour or so, we were determined to get this cat.

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Mario loved the aquarium and would take breaks from my shoulders to paw at the glass.

As the day wore on, however, our senses returned. We absolutely cannot adopt another soul at this point in our lives. We just got an RV that we aren’t totally settled in yet, we have a dog who was away for training and hadn’t even seen his new house yet, and we have a cat who absolutely abhors the sight of other members of his own species. I mean DESPISES them. It’s to the point where Copeland literally goes straight for the jugular of the offending cat upon sight.

Yeah. No way. Can’t do it.

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I already have my hands full at home… we can’t adopt another one right now.

So I decided that we couldn’t get him.

(Unless he was still at the Colony next week….)

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Love bug.

All pictures taken by me!

If you want to help out at these amazing charities, visit their websites here:

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Week 41: The first Autism Friendly Show in Boston ever!

Project: Performance for Autism Speaks

Time Taken: 4 hours

Magic and Disney go together like peas and carrots. I have the unbelievable privilege to create magical moments every night as I step out on stage at my job as a dancer in the cast of the national touring cast of the Lion King.

But some nights are more magical than others.

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The lobby of the Boston Opera House

This week, we had the honor to perform for an audience completely comprised of adults and children who are all along the autism spectrum and their families. It’s the second time I’ve participated in this special show, and the third time our touring cast has hosted this special event. Last year in Pittsburgh, I was absolutely floored not only at the audience’s response to the show, but my own emotional reaction.

This year, I was determined to keep it together.

I didn’t even make it past the initial meeting.

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A Lion King fan. Ha.

We met earlier in the week as a cast to see the technical changes required of such a special show. Lights are brought up, there is no total black out, sounds are slightly muted, and certain special effects, such as our strobe lights and CO2 geysers, are cut all together. All of these adjustments are made to make our autistic guests more comfortable, as most of these effects and stage techniques can be startling or unsettling, but for the cast, it changes the show dramatically.

We are so used to doing the same exact show with all the same effects every night, six nights a week, 52 weeks a year, and in my case, for going on six years now. Any minuscule change in the show, whether someone flubs a line slightly, a musical cue is a little early, or a light doesn’t go on when it’s supposed to, is easily noticed by us backstage. So to change so many aspects of the show, the stage management team had to prepare us.

Ken Davis, our intrepid leader, gave a beautiful, moving speech about the effect our show had on a particular child in Pittsburgh, so was too afraid to come into the show until he convinced him to come see Timon and Pumbaa sing “Hakuna Matata.” The boy finally came into the theater and quickly forgot his fears, bouncing along with the song with abandon.

Cue my waterworks.

We got through the rehearsal and were ready for show day, and I pulled myself together, thinking that I would be stronger the day of the show. No tears would leak from these false-eyelash laden eyes, I told myself. (Tears quickly ruin a good pair of fake lashes, if you didn’t know.)

Before the show, I went out into the lobby, to see how we were preparing in the front for our audience that afternoon, and it was simply amazing. Quiet rooms, toys to occupy busy hands, and smiling volunteers were everywhere ready to help. The audience filled in slowly, almost apprehensively, taking their seats and apologizing for their child running down an aisle before realizing that they didn’t have to- they were among the understanding.

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Calming areas were found throughout the lobby.

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Fun toys for anyone who needed them.

I got ready for the show, enjoying the electric energy that this special show gives the cast. Only a few of us had experienced it last year, and we were looking forward to joy that flooded us a year ago coming again. Those that hadn’t experienced it yet were excitedly nervous, not knowing what the show would hold. Two years ago a guest tried to run up on stage- would that happen again this year, they wondered? (For the record, no, it didn’t. Although there was a story of a guest finding their way into the upstairs dressing rooms from the lobby somehow. A cast member saw them run down the hall with a volunteer trailing them. Exciting stuff!)

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Preparing for the show.

We got an official welcome from the mayor of Boston, as this was the first Autism Friendly show in Boston’s history. We didn’t get to meet him, but it was very cool begin introduced by him and knowing that we had his full support.

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Thanks Mayor Walsh!

I though the first act without a hitch, proud of how professional I could be when I needed to be, and still enjoying looking out on the bouncing, yelling, happy faces of our audience with joy in my heart.

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The inter lobby of the Boston Opera House

And then the second act started.

If you’ve seen our show, you know what happens. If you haven’t, I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but let’s just say that I get to go out and perform in the audience for one song, “One by One.” It’s one of my favorite parts of the show, as I get to make direct eye contact with our audience members, and even sometimes get to give high fives to willing kids. I don’t know why I thought i would make it though this scene without any kind of reaction, because the minute I stepped out into the buzzing audience, I felt the tears begin to prick the back of my eyes.

I ran into my assigned aisle and began to sing and caught eyes with a row of special needs kids with the happiest, beaming faces I had ever seen. They waved, giggled, smiled and laughed though the song, and I could help but give my biggest smile back. When the song ended, I gave them each a high five, receiving a few sticky hands in return. I didn’t even care.

I ran backstage to get ready for my next scene and the local makeup artist saw the tears I was holding back. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she remarked as she painted stripes on my face. “It’s just so amazing that you guys are doing this.”

I thought about what she said, and realized she was wrong. We aren’t the amazing ones. They are. The ones living their lives with autism, their friends and families who care for them- they are far more amazing than anything I can imagine.

Something else that our stage manager Ken Davis had said at the meeting popped into my head, and I realized the truth in these words as my tears streaked my face paint: “This is a performance where the audience are the real stars.”

And he couldn’t have been more right.

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Intermission at the Boston Opera House

All photos by Selena Moshell – All rights reserved –

Week 32: Girl Scouting

 Project: Girl Scout Meeting

Actual Time Taken: One Hour

 

Sometimes volunteering can be hard work– building houses for the homeless, picking up trash around a park, sorting heavy cases of canned goods for food banks… and sometimes it can be easy.

 

 

This weeks’ hour of volunteering was definitely of the easy variety.

 

 

I almost don’t want to count the hour of Girl Scout-ing we did as my weekly hour of volunteering. It was far too much fun. And I hang out with my Girl Scout member Hero (singular- we are a small, but mighty troop.) all the time anyway, seeing as she’s my best friend. (yes. I have a 12 year old best friend. She’s like my little sister, sans the annoying little sister stuff.)

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Sister Selfie Realness

But we had a busy week here at work. (Not a good excuse, I know.) We had eight shows (like we always do…) and a four hour rehearsal for the newest dancer girl to be put into the show (also part of the job, can’t use that as an excuse..) and I was just beat. (also lame. But anyway….)


Hero came to the theater between shows on Saturday with her best friend Tenley, who was visiting from New York. Tenley doesn’t have a Girl Scout troop that she participates with, so we inducted her for the afternoon.

   2014-08-09 18.11.34Hero and Tenley with her Scouting notebook and badge

 

First we had some pepperoni pizza for lunch. This is an important point because the one time I went to a Girl Scout meeting as a kid we were served stale, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn, and in that crunchy, tasteless moment, I decided that the Girl Scouts weren’t for me at the time.

 

 

Now that I find myself as a Girl Scout leader, I make sure we have awesome snacks.

 

 

The irony is that after we had the said pizza, we found out that our badge that we are working towards is about being fit and healthy.

 

Oops.

 2014-08-09 18.11.28Tenley also had a bunch of Whoppers. Great nutritional-leader-of-children I am…

 

We flipped though our Junior Girl Scout binder after the delicious (read: unhealthy) pizza and figured out what steps we needed to take to earn Hero her badge. We picked one that required Hero and Tenley to talk to a health care professional about how to stay healthy at their age, and while we waited for a health care professional to show up, we crafted with some copper jewelry wire I had brought, making rings, bracelets, and a couple of pairs of faux glasses.

 2014-08-09 18.05.57Copper glasses. The very-thin-wire variety

 

After we were done with our craft photo shoot, we went up to our Physical Therapists’ office. We travel our own PT for the cast and crew of the Lion King, Dionne Vernon of NeuroTour Physical Therapy. She’s amazing and I swear at times, is single-handedly keeping this show going by keeping injuries at bay.

 

 

Hero and Tenley talked to Dionne about how to stay healthy, how and why growing pains happen (did you know your bones don’t grow from the center but from either end of the bone?! I certainly didn’t!), and how important stretching and staying active is to a young, growing body such as theirs.

 2014-08-09 18.22.41Health chat- check.

 

I swear I must have learn as much from Dionne as those girls did. I think it’s one of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout leader- I get as much out of the meetings and badge activities as the girls do!

 

 

Learning + Volunteering = Double win.

Weeks 29-30: The Hunter becomes the Hunted

Project: Lion King Talkbacks

 

Actual Time: 2 hours

To be honest, I’m usually scrambling weekly to find an hour of volunteer work every week in every city. It’s harder than you would think, given the fact that we travel full time. Most places want a month-to-month commitment, or lengthy trainings, or background checks, and for good reason. I wouldn’t trust transient strangers with my city’s children/elderly/homeless neighbors either.

But these two weeks, two opportunities literally fell into my lap.

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Outreaching in Baltimore

At the Lion King, we get lots of opportunities to give back to the community, if we so choose, though question and answer sessions after the show. Usually these are arranged by our PR department, but sometimes cast members arrange them on their own. This week’s particular session (Week 29, for those keeping count) was arranged by Russel Joel Brown, and featured 125 of his roommate’s church’s congregation members.

You read that right.

One hundred and twenty five.

Usually, large groups are accommodated by having them wait in their seats in the theater after the show lets out. Unfortunately, this arrangement is usually set up by the PR department, and since this session was set up by a cast member, having the hundred and twenty five guests stay in the house wasn’t an option.

So we trucked them all backstage, up an elevator (in groups of ten), into our rehearsal room, and into metal folding chairs. All onehundredandtwentyfive of them.

But the effort was totally worth it, as it always is. The group had wonderful questions and everyone was ever so thankful for the question and answer session, so as always, it was worth every elevatorherding, group-wrangling, metal-folding-chair-hauling moment.

The next week, (Week 30, as the moon follows the sun) was brought to me by our Shenzi, Rashada Dawan. 

She randomly ran into a former college classmate, Bresean Jenkins, at one of the numerous Smithsonian museums and, as it happened, he was currently running an arts camp at a local charter school. She offered to come talk to his students, and he jumped at the chance,  immediately booking her and a few cast members to stop by the camp.

Rashada, myself, and fellow ensemble dancer Leroy Church stopped by ConneXions Community Leadership Academy to lead a question and answer session for their first ever summer arts program and were promptly surprised by a full out performance! The kids had been working on scenes from “Once on this Island,” and performed with such enthusiasm, talent, and excitement, it literally brought us to tears.

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These kids were GIVING it!!!

It is always so humbling to see kids who just love to sing, dance, and move so excited to perform for us. They see it as such an honor for them, but to be honest, the honor is truly for us. Watching them and hearing their open and sincere questions after the performance reminded us of where we came from, when we were young students at summer arts camps, after-school dance programs, and theater intensives.

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Big Finish!

It reminded us of our younger selves– curious, hungry, driven, and passionate about art. When you dance this show six days a week, eight times every seven days, it can turn into a job that you punch into and out of very quickly. But seeing these kids and their passion reenergized all of us, and reminded us of how truly fortunate we are to do what we do every day.

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SANG Rashada!

So we told them how inspired we were, Rashada sang a few amazing songs, we answered a few questions, and were on our way. But the memory of these kids, their talent, their passion, is something I will never forget. I couldn’t believe how amazing their scenes were, even in the first year of existence of this arts camp. It was exhilarating to know that this was just the beginning for this incredible school and camp.

I can’t wait to see what they do in the upcoming years, and what special talents they foster and help to grow in the future.

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Silly faces!

After all, isn’t that what all of this volunteering, helping out , inspiring others and being inspired ourselves in turn… isn’t that what it’s all about? Changing our little corner of the world for the better?

Absolutely.

Week Eight: Volunteering My Way Around Hawaii

Project: Workshop at Lanai Performing Arts Academy

Actual Time Taken: 5 hours

A few months before the Lion King made landfall in Hawaii, I received a Tweet from a mysterious man asking about a possible backstage tour or Q&A with his students. I forwarded this along the usual PR lines that Disney likes us to use, and didn’t think much about it…

That is until Andrew Gorell, our Zazu, mentioned that he received a similar message though this website. This guy is really web savvy, and determined to talk to us I thought to myself. I finally contacted the mysterious man myself and learned that the man in question, who’s named Matthew, is the leader of a performing arts program (The Lanai Academy of Performing Arts) at a school on the small island of Lanai. He and 25 of his students were flying over to the Oahu to see one of our shows and asked if we could set up a backstage tour for the group. We don’t usually set up tours for school groups ourselves, but Andrew and Thembe  (another singer in the ensemble) offered to help, so I figured we could pull it off for them.

The day of the show, the group descended on our stage door, a gaggle of excited middle schoolers whispering and pointing at all of our costumes, props, and set pieces in awe. At the end of the tour, as we said our goodbyes, Matthew revealed that the kids had something they wanted to perform for us as a thank you for the tour. He suddenly produced out a ukulele from a case and strummed along as the kids belted out their own rendition of “Can’t Wait to be King,” complete with choreography and blocking! Much to Andrew’s delight, there was even an adorable Zazu character played by a precocious little boy who quickly stole our hearts.

We gave them a well deserved standing ovation, and thought that would be the end of our interaction with the group. Little did we know that in a few weeks time, we would be boarding a plane to fly to Lanaii to teach the kids on their ‘home turf‘ of Lanaii! Matthew set up the trip with the help of local sponsors, covering every cost including the flights for myself, Andrew, and Thembe, meals, and a bed and breakfast for an overnight stay!

We left Oahu on a 6:00 am flight (an unspeakable hour for theater folk, such as us…) in a twin prop plane and landed in Lanaii a mere 20 minutes later. We deplaned and after a quick breakfast in the town square, which was delicious. The only real town on the island is Lanai City, which mostly consists of one small square ringed by about 10 stores total. It’s absolutely adorable! After breakfast, we immediately began our first activity of the day, a comprehensive island tour given to us by the Lanai Cultural and Historical Center.

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That’s us up at 5:02 AM folks….

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Aloha Oahu, Aloha Lanai! 

The island is tiny compared to Oahu, and most of the places we visited were only accessible by four wheel drive trucks or, in our case, vans. He took us to gorgeous vistas and historical sites, all of them seemingly more beautiful than the last. When we were done, we headed up to one of the two Four Seasons hotels on the island for lunch.

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The view of Maui from Lanai

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The mars-like terrain was as beautiful as it was formidable

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Thembe taking it all in!

The lodge was a palatial resort, complete with botanical gardens, golf courses, and croquet fields. We enjoyed a sumptuous lunch, which was sponsored by the Four Seasons as another surprise to us, and then headed over the school to begin our workshop.

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A posh lunch!

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Andrew squeezes in a quick game…

We met the kids, many of whom we recognized from their trip over to see us in the show, and after a quick ice breaker exercise, jumped right into the workshop. We started with Thembie teaching them “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in her native language of Zulu. They mastered it after a little bit of work, but we decided to make it even more challenging by introducing choreography, which was my section of the workshop. After learning the dance, I surprised them by asking them to sing the Zulu words while they performed the choreography, which is much like what we do every day on stage!

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Teaching time!

Finally Andrew taught his section, which was all about making puppets come to life. He had crafted a little turtle from cardboard and a paper bowl, and the kids took turns using the puppet. While one child got to operate the puppet, Thembe and I worked with the other kids to become living set pieces, which we also get to do every day on stage in the Lion King. One scene we are plants, and in the next we are animals wandering the pride lands, so we worked with the kids to create the turtle’s environment as Andrew worked with the junior puppeteers.

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Our teaching turtle, Honu!

At the end of the workshop, we got to help them clean up a production they were working on, which was an original play about bullying. They performed it once for us, and then I jumped in to help clean up the blocking and spacing, while Andrew stepped in to help them with motivation and projection… you know, actor stuff. At the end of the day, the kids were excited, inspired, and asked some wonderful, insightful questions in our Q&A section.

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We enjoyed the Q&A as much as the kids did! (Maybe more!)

Matthew let us take a quick nap in the B&B and then treated us to one last luxurious meal at the other Four Seasons hotel as we watched the sunset over the ocean. It was an absolutely wonderful trip, and I’m so thankful that our volunteering efforts are literally taking us places! I’ll never forget those kids at Lanai Acadamy of Performing Arts, and I hope to make it back someday to the beautiful island of Lanai!

Week Five: Behind on Blogs, Recruiting More Writers

Project: Love Letters for the Elderly and Outreach for the Lion King

Actual Time Taken: 2:15

It’s only week five of 2014, and I’m already a bit behind on this blog.

At the beginning of the year, I would have suspected that the hardest part of the experiment of volunteering an hour every week would be finding the projects to volunteer for, but not so… I’m finding that the hardest part is finding the time to write about it!

This week, for example, I have two, count them TWO, volunteering opportunities, and can barely find time to hit the keys about them. Ironic.

The first project I’m continuing is the Love Letters for the Elderly project from dosomething.org, but with a larger goal. We made 35 cards last week, a paltry sum after realizing that the Meals on Wheels in Honolulu services about 500 people.

(We’re gonna need a bigger boat….)

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So I recruited the entire cast.

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We travel about 115 people in the cast and crew of the Lion King. I’m thinking that if we all just made just five cards, we could be done lickity split. But I can’t count on every electrician or singer to have an iota of artistic motivation, so I’ll beg some of my more motivated co-workers to make a few extra cards for the cause.

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Sue in the Puppets Department made her own heart-shaped stamps!! Crafty!

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Our Nala Nia Holloway gets into the charity Valentines Day spirit!

The second volunteering event was a question and answer session with a local school. Our Shenzi, (hyena in the show, Rashada Dawan) organized this outreach, and I always love doing this kind of thing. Getting out of the theater, meeting local people, getting to actually talk to them instead of dancing at them is really fun for me.

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A thank you card from an earlier outreach effort. So cute!

A few of my fellow cast members and I showed up at Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School at 2:30 on Thursday to talk to the local drama club, The T-Shirt Theater. This group seeks out the most promising talents from three local high schools and trains them in drama, dance, singing, and even backstage crafts. After receiving fragrent lei’s and welcoming hugs, we found ourselves in a large circle with 30 of these young thespians. They invited us to participate in their daily opening exercise of saying their name and something positive that happened to them that day. (Mine went something like “Hi, my name is Selena, and seeing as I was a bit lost and about 10 minutes late, the good thing that happened to me was finding this place!”)

The kids were incredibly attentive and excited to ask us questions about what it was like to live and perform on a real-life Broadway tour. They had great questions, like “When did you know you wanted to be in theater?” and “What was it like to audition?” Thankfully no one asked those awkward questions, that I have actually been asked in Q&A’s around the country, such as “How much money do you make?” and “Can you put a good word in with casting for me?”

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These kids rock!

After two hours of chatting with the group, we taught them Circle of Life, complete with lyrics (The REAL lyrics, not the “pink pajamas, penguins on the bottom” that we all sang as kids…) and choreography. We split the class into groups; one big group of prancing zebras, one group of flapping birds, one group of baby elephants, and one group of leaping gazelles. After we taught them movement and lyrics, we forced them to combine the two at the same time, just like we do every night on stage. As we all dissolved into giggles, I was thankful that such a wonderful volunteering opportunity fell into my lap, and felt good about how I spent my hour giving back this week