Picnic full of fall fun

Organizing a community event was unknown territory for me, a little daunting but worth exploring. I knew one thing: I wanted to invite families who deal with special needs. Whole families. So that everyone would feel accepted and understood.

I also wanted to have an outside event, so I reserved a park shelter. The one good date available was just before Halloween, so pumpkins and costumes seemed a natural fit.

The result? Picnic in the Park with Pumpkins.

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I didn’t know how many people to expect. I hoped at least one person would come. About 50 people did.

Thanks to all the families who spent this past Sunday at South Fork Park in Florence. We enjoyed sunshine and a warm breeze. My grill master husband cooked up hot dogs and bratwursts. People set up chairs and blankets and gathered under the shelter to talk and eat.

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We talked about families, schools and concerns about health, medicine and resources. We played yard games, listened to my nephew rock his guitar and broke into a sing-a-long of “Shut Up and Dance with Me.” Superman, a pirate and various other characters were spotted on the playground and basketball courts. Families visited the park’s creek and walking trail.

The day was one of beauty, relationship and wholeness.

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A grant I received from the myNKY Nano Grant Program helped make this great day possible. A big thank you to the people at Skyward and The Center for Great Neighborhoods! They are all about creating community. If you want to know more, I wrote about the program in a previous post.

As one family was leaving the picnic, a man and I talked about how getting out of the house can be a challenge but how valuable the effort is. There was talk at some point in the day of this becoming an annual event.

As I continue on this blogging journey, that might be a road to explore.

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New session for drama club open to teens of all abilities

Update: As of Oct. 6, this group will meet at the new time of 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

I’ll never forget the first talent show my daughter performed in. She was maybe 11 years old when she stood on stage at epilepsy summer camp and recited a song she had learned in preschool, complete with finger movements, about a caterpillar who turned into a butterfly. To finish up her act, she turned a cartwheel.

The crowd went wild.

The crowd went wild for each act, and the performers beamed their pride and delight, as if they all were caterpillars turned to butterflies.

Ever since that talent show, I’ve been a fan of stage work for children with special needs. Now a program in Northern Kentucky brings the pride and delight of the performing arts to teens of all abilities. The program is called Dramakinetics – a word that names a method as well as an organization.

Dramakinetics, the method, uses movement, music and drama to encourage participants to express themselves creatively. While doing so, participants build confidence and friendships and learn new skills and information. Educator and religious sister Jannita Complo created Dramakinetics in 1974 for her doctoral dissertation at Wayne State University in Michigan. The program guides teachers in using the arts to teach academics and help students express themselves.

Dramakinetics, the organization, operates out of Cincinnati, offering performing arts activities to help children, teens and adults of all abilities reach their creative potential. The instructors work with schools and organizations and also offer instruction for home school students. Founder Pam Shooner, an educator and local performer, incorporated the non-profit organization in 2007.

In this video, Shooner talks about the program. “You can learn anything through Dramakinetics,” she says. “That’s why I believe in it.”

Earlier this year, Dramakinetics made its way across the Ohio River to offer a teen group called Creative Chaos. Instructors guided participants to create community productions infused with their particular interests. For instance, one session produced a play that included a queen, princesses, One Direction music and a villain. (Full disclosure: My daughter was in it, and it was brilliant!)

Dramakinetics hopes to grow in Northern Kentucky. Here’s a bit from the website: “This class will not only introduce the students to the various aspects of theater but also encourage them to have confidence in their creative ability and the courage to be themselves.  We are very excited to see what this group will put together!”

The next session starts Thursday. Here are the basics:

Ages: 13-20

Place: Stage One at First Church of Christ, 6080 Camp Ernst Rd., Burlington, KY 41005

Time: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Duration: The ten-week session runs from Sept. 8 through Nov. 17.

Cost: $17 per class, $170 for the session. A $10-discount applies if the cost for the session is paid in full by the first class.

Register: Visit the Creative Chaos web page.

Contact: For more information, call Dramakinetics at 513-389-1721 or visit its website.