Every July the terrific folks in my neighborhood and ward pull together to give the children a constructive summer activity that not only gives them something fun do to, but it helps others as well. It’s called the Nibley Neighborhood Circus.
Flyers go out alerting everyone to the initial meeting. All children in our ward boundaries (we live in a small Utah town, so the boundaries aren’t very big) are invited to participate in a pretend circus that will be performed in a large yard for whatever crowd can be gathered. Kids choose to be tightrope walkers (walking over a low wooden beam with an umbrella); strongmen (wearing superhero costumes stuffed with balloons or newspaper and carrying Styrofoam barbells); barrel riders (on stick horses); lions, tigers, or tamers; clowns; acrobats; any circus act you can come up with and get creative with.
For the next few days, acts are created and choreographed to music by older children. Mothers oversee, and help keep younger children where they need to be, but pretty much leave the creative process to the kids. Songs are learned for the opening and closing numbers, which include everyone all together. The kids then practice the show for a couple of mornings while moms pool resources to gather and make costumes.
The Young Women begin gathering donations for the concessions that they’ll sell during the show, and build a concessions stand. Families share anything from packaged candy to home baked goodies, to the harvests from their gardens. Connections and generous donations yield popcorn and cotton candy makers, as well as a sound system.
Flyers go out again to advertise the circus performance. It’s a bring-your-own-chair event on the lawn, with a 50-cent admission. Rings are painted in the grass, Christmas lights mark the stage, murals are colored and taped to the fence.
A large crowd of parents, grandparents, and friends and neighbors in the community arrive to see the circus that’s come to town. The show attracts members and non-members alike, both as performers and audience. Neighbors with no children at home come to watch. Families who couldn’t schedule coming to practices still come to watch their friends. And through admission and concessions, money is raised for phase 2 of the project.
When the music fades and the yard is cleared out, groups of these children head to the back-to-school sales and purchase school supplies with the money earned. Mothers and daughters sew school bags. The supplies are put in the school bags and then sent to the Church’s Humanitarian Center to be donated to children who need them. Last summer, the children earned $459 and put together 123 school bags.
I cannot take credit for any of this. I’m just grateful I live in the midst of so many good people and that my family gets to be a part of it. I love that my children get to do something creative and dramatic, spend fun time with their friends, and yet have a higher purpose. I love that it’s a joint effort between so many people and that our community supports it. I love that in the summertime, when many people are scattered, we get to come together and help make the world a better place. Here’s to making this a better world this summer!
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