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Shaw town preview program assists six non-profits

Funds are generated through sale of discounted tickets to local residents for designated previews of Shaw Festival plays

The Shaw Festival’s town preview program committee meets only once a year, but it has a significant impact on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s non-profit community-based organizations. 

Representatives from six local organizations gathered at the Festival Theatre lobby Wednesday to receive their shares of almost $5,000 in donations divvied out by the committee for this year. The funds are generated annually through sales of discounted tickets to local residents. Local charitable organizations are invited to apply for funding to the committee..

“This program has been running for close to 30 years, supporting well-deserving charitable organizations,” said Shaw director of community engagement and outreach Pragna Desai. “It connects the Shaw Festival to other groups who are our friends and our colleagues. Through these connections we all thrive.”

This year the committee - Desai, executive assistant Janet Hanna, associate music director Ryan deSouza, senior ensemble member Kiera Sangster, Shaw Guild president Mary Mizen and Jenniffer Annand, senior manager of communications - directed between $500 and $1,300 each to non-profits in the arts, athletics, childcare and cancer patient support. 

“We have a really good time going over all the applications,” Hanna told The Local. “We really enjoy learning about all the different projects people have going on. We try to match the amount of funds we have available with the number of applicants.”

“It doesn’t take us too long to do it,” added Sangster, “maybe an hour and a half.”

“We have a lot of organizations that apply every year or every second year,” Hanna continued. “This year, we did not say no to anybody, and typically that’s the case. We do our best to make sure we can help all the applicants because they are always running good projects.”

Among the recipients for the first time this year is the Niagara Nursery School and Child Care Centre. Board president Olivia Fabiani says the $1,000 in Shaw support will be used to outfit the nursery school’s outdoor play spaces.

“Our goal is to have a very naturalized playground,” Fabiani said Wednesday, “something that works on gross motor skills for the kids. We really try to emphasize outdoor play. We have a specific set that we have our eyes on. The toddler area is the space that really needs our attention right now.”

As a sign of appreciation, Fabiani handed Shaw executive director and CEO Tim Jennings, who presented the six cheques Wednesday, a thank you card made by the children of the nursery school.

Three arts-oriented non-profits were on this year’s list of recipients. Rima Boles was there to accept a $1,000 donation to the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre. The funds are earmarked to support their family friendly summer program. 

Two musical events also received $500 each in support. Music Niagara Festival upcoming ‘Glory to Ukraine’ concert on July 30 received a boost from the preview program. And last Saturday’s TD Niagara Jazz Festival event at Simcoe Park also benefited by the same amount. 

“The money we received today will go toward paying the musicians who play our ‘Music in the Park’ event July 22 in Simcoe Park,” said jazz festival co-creator and executive artistic producer of the $500 in Shaw support. “It’s always nice to put this toward the artist fees because that’s what it’s all about, the artists.”

Those artists include Cuban trumpeter Bobby Carcassés, the Poland-based Wojtek Justyna TreeOh!, South African-born singer Lorraine Klaasen and drummer Ernesto Cervini’s TurboProp, who will all appear at Simcoe Park this Saturday. 

In addition, Walter Weaver accepted a $1,300 cheque on behalf of the NOTL branch of the Canadian Cancer Society to go toward their Wheels of Hope program that provides cancer patients with rides to their treatment appointments. As well, Jennings handed a $500 cheque to Paul Staz for sponsorship for a NOTL Soccer Club house league team.

“It’s about charities helping charities, that’s what I love about this program,” said Jennings. “We hope to do more of this in the future as we continue to rebuild. I suspect our numbers will go back up again and we’ll have even more money to share.”