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The Recorder – “A Little Help From My Friends”: Artists Get Help from Emily’s Fund

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Emily List was a huge Beatles fan who understood Ringo when he said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Thus, the fund created to honor Emily’s memory, the Emily List Fund for Performing Arts Therapy, will this year give a little boost to her fellow entertainers who use theater, dance and music to help people. disadvantaged.

Grants in this 10th year of the fund will go to five groups emerging from a difficult pandemic year in which they continued to work with their clients online instead of playing, dancing and making music with them online. nobody.

The fund was established in 2012 in memory of Emily, an actress, dancer and lover of all the performing arts, who lost her life to a rare form of cancer in 2011. During her 10 premieres years he has awarded $ 65,000 in grants. to 25 groups, mostly local.

This year’s recipients hope to use their grants to reconnect with the real world.

Whole Children, based in Hadley, helps teens and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities explore their passion for theater because, as Valle Dwight puts it, “people with disabilities shouldn’t be sidelined in theater. or in life ”.

The March 2020 Whole Children’s show had to be canceled a week before opening night due to the pandemic, but Dwight, director of development and communications, says they are bringing the theater back in person this summer and teaching two course because of its popularity.

Enchanted Circle Theater works with schools in Holyoke and Springfield to create and perform original plays related to the curriculum, which it continued to do remotely last year.

Executive Director Priscilla Kane Hellweg says thousands of students are served each year through these programs that motivate them to learn, help them believe they can be successful and help them “develop the skills of innovation and 21st century creative thinking necessary for their success in the future ”- programs that hopefully can take place in person next school year.

Born Dancing Inc., run by founder Melissa van Wijk, offers high-level dance classes to students with physical and intellectual disabilities and other underserved communities. Born Dancing produces original performances in which students appear with professional dancers, after taking courses that turn into productions.

Van Wijk had to cancel last year’s performances, but she shared videos of the dancers working from home and is now creating a new show – “our biggest production yet” – at the Flea Theater in New York City.

SciTech Group Director Gary Bernice is hoping to rebuild the group – literally – after a year in which he and his co-directors have created a comprehensive online music program for their musicians. Over 400 instruments were distributed to students at home, and group directors created 250 lesson videos and conducted 6,000 individual lessons on Zoom.

Called “The Pride of Springfield,” the group has created “an environment through music that challenges and motivates students to strive for excellence,” according to Bernice, and those who play for more than a year are three times more likely to stay in school. .

“This school year was like no other,” says Bernice, “but our students never gave up!

Neither were the participants in “Dancing with Our Docs,” a fundraiser for a dance program for breast cancer survivors sponsored by the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Mount Clemens, Michigan.

Pat Keigher, Regional Director of Cancer Services, says: “Like Emily, our patients use dance to help them fight cancer. The power of dance and music helps shift their focus to healing, not diagnosis. Their performances are truly inspiring and a tribute to all cancer patients. “

The program had to be canceled last year, but the same four patients, paired with their doctors in choreographed and costumed dance routines, are preparing to dance again this fall when they perform in front of a thousand guests at the show. an annual breast cancer awareness event. .

And with a little help from Emily’s Fund, they will.

Karen List is Emily’s mother and a professor in the journalism department at UMass. For more information, visit emilylistfund.org/.


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