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Volunteers keep Care Actors afloat

July 12, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING ? For as long as Chris Rudisill can remember, he has loved to perform.

But when that didn't work out as a career that would support him, he wasn't discouraged. Instead he created Care Actor Productions in 1989 to provide that performance outlet he was missing.

"I started performing musical shows in nursing homes," Rudisill said. Along the way, he drafted friends and family members to dress up in novelty costumes for the performances at festivals, fundraisers and other outings.

Except for occasional donations, everything was volunteer in the early days. The purpose of the endeavor was the satisfaction they received and the joy he and his merry band took to young and old alike.

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Then Care Actor Productions branched out into parade floats and access to an audience grew by leaps and bounds. Currently there are two floats stored at Rudisill's Broadfording Road home near Clear Spring. The company's array of costumes and props are kept in his basement.

Rudisill said he got a lot of advice from local float veteran, Ralph DeVore, when he started working with his own floats.

"We started with one parade and now we do about 20 a year," Rudisill said. Prize money won in those parades goes back into the business along with any donations that come their way.

Members of Care Actor Productions recently performed at Toys for Happiness at Hagerstown's Valley Mall. All the money collected went to the Salvation Army, Rudisill said.

On Saturday, Rudisill's troupe will be at Smithsburg Pride Days. "We used to do C&O Canal Days in Williamsport but it got too hot," he said.

Heat is a major factor. Once the costumes go on, there is no way to get much relief from the elements.

"I figured out a way to run a tube up the suits from a water bottle so at least you can drink some water to cool off," said Debbie Rudisill, Chris' mother. She is often involved in her son's efforts, dressing up as a character for shows and parades.

The other volunteers in the troupe include his father, Bernie Rudisill; Chris' aunt, Barb Eichelberger; friends Kelly Ellis, Paul Woodal Jr. and Anneke Tingle; and Debbie Churchey, who also sews many of the costumes.

"When you are riding on a float and you hear the kids cheer when they see you coming, it's great," Churchey said.

While much of the group's costume needs can be found on the Internet now, there are some personal touches that Churchey adds with her sewing as part of her contribution to the effort.

Rudisill, 34, said he couldn't do what he does without his loyal group of volunteers. "They love doing this," he said. While nursing home visits have been limited by new regulations, the group still does some "meet and greet" activities around the holidays.

Care Actor Productions also offers party tent rentals and DJ services which bring in some money. But Rudisill's main source of income is being the manager of Wendy's on Wesel Boulevard.

Rudisill said he is grateful to Ruth Ridenour, his drama teacher at Williamsport High School. "I was always involved in drama club, theater and show choir there," he said.

For more information on Care Actor Productions, call 301-991-7369.

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