Fairy tale spin-off performance finale for special needs arts camp
Villain Busters were the first to storm the stage. They entered with pool noodles by their sides as their weapons, their footsteps marked by a heavy baseline in the background music.
Other characters appeared on stage as the story unfolded. From Friendly Forest Creatures to Giggly Gingerbread Folks, the audience at Maureen Forrester Recital Hall in Wilfrid Laurier University last Friday were treated to a performance of Once Upon a Time, put on by the Arts Express — a week-long camp for children with special needs.
Kids spent four days immersed in arts, music, dance and drama at the Waterloo KidsAbility facility, a co-sponsor of the camp. They were led by a group of university students enrolled in a course called Inclusive Arts for Children, offered by the faculty of music at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Volunteers also got their fair share of performance time. They spent the week with the campers and assisted them alongside camp leaders. One volunteer is Dillon Coates.
Coates started out as a camper. He went to Arts Express every year starting in 2006 until he passed the cut-off age of 14.
"The reason I became a volunteer was because I really loved doing the camp when I was here as a camper," Coates said. "I wanted to continue that and give back to the camp that's given me so much."
Arts Express was where he stood on stage for the first time. It's the same case for other participants.
Camp coordinator Elizabeth Mitchell said this performance is a great opportunity for kids to experience what it's like to be on a professional stage.
"For that hour when they're on stage, the children are truly treated, as they should be — as entertainers and artists of the highest ability, and the audience supports them," she said.
For Coates, his first stage experience opened the door to many future performances, one being a lead singer of a rock band in high school.
Coates finds joy in connecting with kids who are exploring arts and performance.
"It's really great to help the kids and see them be happy," he said. "I remember a couple years ago, I was helping one kid and he said to me, 'This is the best day of my life,' and hearing that was great."