It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially for the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, which for more than three decades has provided holiday cheer for children-in-need.
In the beginning, a merry band of eleven actors, directors, writers and producers, with Santa in tow, would visit various group foster homes, play games with the kids, put on a show, and bring a gift for each child.
Irene Chapman, Edgar Mastin, Jack Csenger, Sandra Cusimano, Liza Standish
The event has grown over the years, as the holiday tradition continued and the need grew, the Group Rep moved the Kids Holiday Party to their theatre. Today, many company members serve as volunteers and performers.
The theatre is decked out for the holiday festivities. Randy West and Shelley Herman were MCs for this year’s entertainment which included a holiday play, holiday songs, and magic. A hot lunch and sweets were served up by the GRT company members. The grand finale included the arrival of Santa with a gift selected for each young guest.
This year, in addition to contributions from GRT members’ family and friends, Christine Holmes and fellow co-workers of the Turner Entertainment Networks, and the Rotary Club of North Hollywood have made the Holiday Kids Party their charity for toy donations.
Longtime GRT members Irene Chapman and Janet Wood, who have been co-chairs of the Holiday Kids Party for 17 years, organized and produced the event with the help of committee members Liza Standish and Stephanie Colet.
“As the date approaches, the company members wrap the gifts and decorate the theater from stem to stern,” past Board President Janet Wood explained.
“On the day of the event, the Helper elves (our company members) come in holiday costumes to extend the holiday spirit and host the day. For many of these children, this is their first experience of live theater. These children live in foster care facilities (not individual foster care homes) and most will stay there until they are 18 years old. We have been able to watch some of these kids grow up and help the little ones in their group. All in all, it is a terrific, heartwarming day!”
The groups of children’s charities change each year; most are foster group homes, but in years past, it has also included a group of children battling cancer. This year, guest organizations included group homes David & Margaret Youth and Family Services, Hathaway-Sycamores, Hillsides, Rosemary Children’s Services, Trinity Youth Services (Clairmont), and Vista Delmar Child and Family Services.
“Each year always brings added precious memorable moments,” said event co-chair, Irene Chapman. A few years ago the “We Can” cancer group took part in the event, and there was one five-year-old boy who was sheer joy to behold. Even though his condition was tenuous, he participated well in all that we presented and with great enthusiasm. His gentle and humble demeanor affected us all. It stirs and warms the heart.”
As 2016 comes to an end, the company members of the Group Rep hope that they have made the holiday better for some children in need. Hosting the party, makes the holidays better for the members of the Group Rep. And, to paraphrase what Janet Wood said earlier, “All in all, it was a terrific, heartwarming day!”
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