Variety—the Children’s Charity of Illinois is pleased to support Hands Together, Heart to Art initiative for children who have experienced the death of a parent. From its inception in 2004, Variety gives its financial assistance in the spirit of providing for the health and well being of all children. In the United States, 1.2 million children before the age of 15 will lose a parent to death. Whether to a lengthy illness or sudden violence, the effect on a child is devastating. In response to what is a very serious and integral need, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago has created “Hands Together, Heart to Art.” This inspiring program addresses these kids’ tragic social dilemma by using dance, theatre, and song as a means to help the children grow, reflect, and heal. The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is dedicated to offering the finest in international, community and cultural programming to the city of Chicago, and to the ongoing restoration and preservation of this National Historic Landmark.
Employing several different areas of the performing arts, the program encourages communication, fosters emotional growth, and provides them with consolation by friends experiencing similar emotions and compassion from counselors and therapists.
Held at the Auditorium Theatre, this innovative educational program is scheduled this summer from July 7-18 (ages 10-14) and July 28 – August 8 (ages 7-11), Monday through Friday.
Participants come from diverse and varied communities throughout Chicago and have even commuted from nearby Indiana and as far south as Florida. They participate in daily theatre, music and dance classes in addition to interactive sessions with licensed healing counselors and therapists. Each session is organized according to a specific theme, such as Our Memories, Our Story, and Imagine Me.
The children are accepted through an exhaustive recruiting process. The application requires an official recommendation of the child as well as a detailed explanation for how/why the child can benefit from the program.
The program is held in the lobby of the Auditorium Theatre as well as various classrooms at Roosevelt University, culminating in a final public performance. Classes in theatre, music, and dance will be conducted daily from 9am – 4pm, led by teaching artists. Throughout the sessions, guest specialists from dance, theatre, music, puppetry, juggling and other art forms offer their expertise and lead group activities. The children participate in each component and contribute artistically and journalistically.
Approximately 70 children between the ages of 7 – 14 will participate this summer, and we hope to expand the program in 2009 following an extensive review of the program’s success.
A typical day at “Hands Together, Heart to Art” includes Sharing Time, an informal discussion with guest speakers who discuss their personal experience with losing a parent to death. The children gradually begin to understand that life does continue following a tragedy, and that people who have suffered a similar loss have gone on to lead successful and happy lives. During the Specials part of the day, the children can choose to write in their journals, spend one-on-one or group time with a certified grief counselor, or visit the Resource Room. The Resource Room is a quiet room stocked with books, magazines and other literary materials concerned with how to cope with grieving.
“Hands Together, Heart to Art” will be extended beyond the summer to include two school-year activities. Children and counselors will be offered a ticket to two weekend matinee performances at the Auditorium Theatre, which may be classical and modern dance performances, Broadway theatre, and many different genres of music. Members of the artistic team will conduct a Q&A session immediately following the performances that will include a candid discussion concerning the performance. It is an opportunity for the children to get together again, as well as to experience performances at the Auditorium Theatre.