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Civitan Club variety show spices up children's lives

December 14, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Jack Stanton arrived in festive attire with a guitar strapped around his shoulder.

But, he said he couldn't sing Christmas songs because he didn't have any bells.

As a compromise, he asked the audience to jangle their keys as he sang "Jingle Bells." Almost immediately, those in the crowd without keys began clapping and singing along.

That began more than an hour of music, clown tricks and magic Wednesday for several hundred developmentally disabled children and seniors at the Potomac Center's activities building next to Marshall Street School.

The annual variety show was organized by the Tri-State Civitan Club, a nonprofit group that helps people with developmental disabilities.

Rick Bernier, variety show coordinator and member of the club, said 300 to 400 people were expected to attend. The club is able to put on the event through donations from residents and businesses, he said. The crowd included groups from Arc of Washington County, Marshall Street School, Job Development Center and Homewood at Williamsport.

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In addition to Stanton, performers were John Dodge, who brought his magic and ventriloquism show, and Kevin Brown, who performed as Kevin the Klown.

Dodge, a former Baltimore police officer, started performing magic as a hobby. It became a full-time business, and he's been giving magic shows for 26 years.

"The hobby was a release (from the police job), and from there, people heard about it and started asking me to do children's parties," Dodge said. "And, from there, it grew."

He currently works with the New York-based Big Apple Circus' Clown Care program, in which he performs bedside shows at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.

His act Wednesday at Potomac Center pulled in laughs and cheers from the audience.

Dodge began with magic tricks and then performed a ventriloquist act with a wise-cracking duck named Charlie.

"Oh, I think it's fun for these kids," said Jaime Dockeney of the Job Development Center.

Dockeney said the Job Development Center students were looking forward to the show.

"Oh, absolutely," she said. "They've been excited since yesterday."

For more information about the Civitan Club, visit civitan.org or call 1-800-CIVITAN.

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