Last week, we had a post that included a parent's letter about his son's involvement with Variety Children's Theatre. For those having trouble reading the text, try this.
Lara, Jan and Julie—
Last year, after Brendan’s first show with VCT, I wrote you a note, thanking you profusely for providing such a wonderful opportunity for Brendan to be included. It was, by far, the best thing that Brendan did in 2015. We are very blessed, and Brendan has many great opportunities, but nothing else came close to the impact that Mary Poppins had. Not one thing.
…and then, Beauty and the Beast was better. Not just because it was a cool show or because the cast and crew were so wonderful--as silly as it sounds, we almost expected that (credit to the faith we have in you and the Variety team). B&B was better because we saw how Brendan was truly engaged and embedded. He has a tendency to sometimes hang on the fringes of large groups, preferring to watch vs. engage, waiting to bust out his energetic (and often silly) side. He will marginalize himself, sometimes.
That didn’t happen with VCT. As we walked down the halls backstage of the Touhill on the first night, at least 20 people said hi to him and gave him a high five. Everyone knew who he was. The same thing happened all week. He was truly included and engaged. He felt like a star, but more importantly, he felt like a part of a group. I saw the same things happen over and over all week with other cast members, too. The family included everyone.
With all respect to your experiences as parents, I’m not sure you understand how meaningful that is to those of us with kids with differing abilities—too many of these kids are marginalized, either physically or socially. We worry that he moves through the high school halls invisible—looked past by those who do not know him and do not how to engage with him. We are scared to death that he won’t have the wonderful social connections that most teenagers develop. Alone / isolated is a future that Kelly and I fear for him. Lonely and overlooked are words that threaten to break our hearts.
These past 7 weeks, no one looked past him. He was never invisible. They looked him in the eye and engaged with him. Among that group, he was treated as a peer and as full-fledged family member. In addition, his experience at Variety allowed him to talk to teachers, classmates and total strangers about his “play.” He actively talked with just about anyone who would listen about the show, about his friends, and about you all—he wore some people out, in fact, with his stories.
Friends, both those with special needs and those without, were excited for him, impressed by him, and some were even jealous of him. That just doesn’t happen very much for him. After seeing the show, people came up to us, often drying tears, to tell us how incredible the show, and the show’s impact, was for them.
Thank you for creating and sustaining an experience that helped him fill his life and for making sure he and others like him were visible to so many.