SARASOTA - Circus Sarasota is now nearing the end of their winter program, with their final show this Friday night. But even after the tent goes dark, the show goes on, because those performances are only the tip of the iceberg.
Circus Sarasota continues its service to the community all year long, and that includes their outreach program "Laughter Unlimited." Five days a week, specially trained clowns and other Circus Sarasota performers go into nursing homes, assisted living homes, and facilities that serve people with disabilities.
There, they not only make the residents laugh, but they inspire them to use their abilities and their talents to the maximum.
The Laughter Unlimited team got a royal welcome at the United Cerebral Palsy Center in Bradenton this week. "We don't just come in and put on a show and present a performance, our clients are vested in the program because we trust them and they trust us," says performer Chuck Sidlow.
Laughter Unlimited visits there twice a month. This is one of their many stops. Every week, they hit two facilities a day, spreading joy and teaching life skills, like better communication. "Most of the Laughter Unlimited programs are dealing in the senior community with Alzheimer dementia independent living, as well as assisted living for our aging folks. First the hearing goes, then the speech, so communication is very, very important."
Clients don't just sit back and watch, they're a part of the show. They sing, they make music, they perform circus tricks. They've been to see Circus Sarasota, and they pretend to be Nik Wallenda.
You can see the applause they get means a lot to them. "Our wonderful friends here at UCP get a wonderful sense of accomplishment and a sense of empowerment," says performer Billy Bob.
The staff at UCP says Laughter Unlimited makes a major difference in the lives they touch there. "Their main focus is to help the individual find their talent and their desires and use that to develop a sense of humor and just have a great time," says Gail Lesko.