March 7, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
The cast of the Junior Auxiliary Charity Ball skit this year is especially fresh-faced and energetic -- which is exactly what one would expect from a lively group of youngsters ages 12 and younger. Sporting swim goggles, flippers or basketballs, 13 girls and boys ages 7-12 will perform their way across the Trotter Convention Center stage at the 59th annual event April 4.
Along with castmates Mark Crigler, Bill Laws and Edwina Williams, the children will highlight the activities of the Frank P. Phillips YMCA, an enduring Columbus institution for the past 75 years. The skit, written by Laurie Hatcher and directed by Heather Ford, pays tribute to the Y''s mission of serving families, children and communities with fitness and wellness programs.
"Junior Auxiliary is a child-centered organization, and we wanted to create a play focused on a child-centered organization," said Ford. "At the end of the play, JA will be presenting a donation to the Y."
YMCA Executive Director Andy Boyd remarked, "We''re so fortunate, as a community, to have a group of caring women participating in our JA chapter, and we''re extremely honored that the subject of this year''s production is the YMCA. JA, like the Y, strives to meet many of our community''s needs."
The downtown Y, and its branches in Caledonia and New Hope, provide programs throughout the year for youth and adults. Traditional sports play a major role, but non-sports activities, including art and drama, are also offered.
The entertaining play centers around a disc jockey, portrayed by Laws, whose broadcast booth overlooks Second Avenue North and the main Y branch. From his vantage point, he observes a steady stream of people coming and going.
With light-hearted numbers coordinated by Musical Director Molly Stafford, the skit highlights a wide array of fun and fitness.
"The girls will do a number to the music of ''Hawaii Five-0,''" Ford shared, "and the boys do one with basketballs, to the tune of ''Get Your Head in the Game'' from ''High School Musical.''"
Nine-year-old Kayne Whittle, the daughter of Michelle and Bill Whittle, is one of the swimmers. "Oh, a thousand times," she responds like a trooper when asked if she''s been on stage before. "We do this all the time." Whittle and some of her friends in the cast are veterans of YMCA Drama Team productions such as "Annie" and "Pollyanna."
Others, like Allie Kerby, the 9-year-old daughter of Lisa and Allen Kerby, are getting their first taste of the bright lights. "I''m the karate kid," she offered with a wide smile.
Are they nervous? "A little," several confessed.
Also in the cast are Georgiana Brown, daughter of Christina Brown and Russell Brown; Walker Brown, son of Sara and Bret Brown; Mary Virginia Fields, daughter of Caroline Fields and John Fields; Haley Marie Fisackerly, daughter of Susan Fisackerly and Barrett Fisackerly; Layne Gerber, daughter of Maureen and Chip Gerber; William Hardy, son of Vicki and Kirk Hardy; Mattox Heredia, son of Michelle and Kenny Heredia; Olivia Laws, daughter of Jami and Bill Laws; Hayden Peel, son of Leslie and Hollis Peel; Hunter Sykes, son of Pam and Greg Sykes; and Cayden Upton, 12, son of Robbie and Tim Upton.
At work in the community
Junior Auxiliary''s year-round work is targeted toward children in Columbus and Lowndes County. Monies raised from support of the annual Report to the Community and the Charity Ball fund service projects including clothing area students in need, as well as in-depth clothing for families who have met with tragedies such as house fires or floods.
Proceeds also fund annual scholarships; "What Tadoo," a child abuse education and prevention program; "In My Shoes," a disability education and awareness program; JAM (Junior Auxiliary Mentors), which provides one-on-one tutoring; GEMS (Girls Empowered to Model Success), targeting selected eighth-grade girls for mentoring; and character-building programs such as "Choose Your Path" for older children and "Imagine U," developed for younger grades. A brand new project this spring is a reality fair for rising high school seniors.
Boyd said, "I recently heard a member of the Columbus chapter of Junior Auxiliary speak to a civic group and was tremendously impressed by the many constructive projects they undertake. I grew up in Columbus and had no idea the diversity of this group."
The ball annually recognizes two Columbus adults for their service to the community. The identity of the "king" and "queen" is closely-guarded until the event. Their court, this year numbering 24 high school seniors, has performed over 2,000 hours of service in their schools, churches and city.
"Our Charity Ball fundraiser has been a huge part of the Junior Auxiliary of Columbus for 59 years," said Ball Chair Lisa Glenn. "We''ve always used it to honor many areas of community service and to pay tribute to our patrons and sponsors. We''re excited, too, to share the spotlight with the YMCA and honor the tremendous contributions it has made."
Patron seating for the Charity Ball on Trotter''s main level is $35 per person. Balcony tickets are $15. Tickets to a Royalty Breakfast, from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, are $16 and must be purchased in advance. Balcony and breakfast tickets are available now at Military Hardware and Garden Center, 1002 13th St. N. For other ticket inquiries, contact Amy Sharp at 662-889-0807.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.