Charity takes center stage

September 16, 2008

A 12-year-old girl with muscular dystrophy received the service dog that her parents couldn’t afford. A 17-year-old boy who is severely physically disabled was given a specially equipped exercise bike. And countless children have much-needed school supplies.

These youngsters are among those who have benefitted in recent years from Kids’ Theatre, a charitable summer program in Frederick County that McDaniel College freshman, Colleen McCarrick '12, founded six years ago when she was 12.

“Our motto is ‘Kids helping kids,’” said McCarrick, 18, who came up with the idea for Kids’ Theatre after staging plays with her four sisters and brothers for years in the family’s back yard in Myersville.

She said the best part is watching her youthful cast get so much out of helping others children.

“I love working with the kids. I love showing them that they can make a difference,” she said. “They see that they can use their talents not just for themselves, but to help others.”

Over the years, the group of about 30 youngsters ranging in ages from 6 to 18 has produced the “Wizard of Oz,” “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Cinderella.”

Kids’ Theatre has always been about charity. Initially, audience members were asked to bring canned goods. Colleen and her siblings would take those proceeds to the local food bank.

Three years ago, the productions moved from the McCarrick back yard to the Myersville Park, where the audience grew to about 200 and the group collected enough in donations to buy the service dog.

“That’s when we figured we could do something big with this,” Colleen said.

She learns about worthy recipients through word-of-mouth, often from fellow cast members. She hopes that over time, as more people learn about the charity, more people will identify themselves to the group for help.

Last month, the group performed “Enchanted Sleeping Beauty” at Middlestown High School before a crowd of nearly 500 people and raised about $2,200 to purchase the exercise bike.

Colleen, who is attending McDaniel on a full-tuition scholarship and plans a dual major in Theatre and Business, said she is considering converting Kids’ Theatre into a full-fledge nonprofit organization to help expand its reach.

She said she dreams of establishing a theater school in her hometown and drawing even larger crowds to Kids’ Theatre productions.

At McDaniel, she recently joined the cast for “Troy Women.” Hanging out during rehearsals at WMC Alumni Hall, she said she already is picking up ideas to improve Kids’ Theatre productions.

“I’ve never taken acting classes,” she said. “So the more experiences I have here, the better off the Kids’ Theatre will be.”