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Circus performers flip for youth programs

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Circus performers will flip, jump and fly later this month to help at-risk children.

The Circus for Circus fundraiser aims to raise money for the Circus and Magic Partnership, commonly known as C.A.M.P, which offers weeklong circus camps to at-risk kids aged 10-14.

The fundraiser will be held Feb. 21 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People. The night will be full of performers, music, cocktails, and prizes, such as two WestJet flight vouchers.

Tickets are $25 at circusforcircus.com.

The program has been running for 17 years. It operates in Winnipeg and in northern communities in Manitoba.

The mastermind behind this initiative is Sara Shyiak, a Red River College student in the Creative Communications program. An aerialist herself, she loves the circus and how it has shaped her confidence.

"If I can go up there and do a flip, if I work hard enough, I’ll be able to do something big and as insurmountable as that, it has taught me that I can do that in other areas of my life," said Shyiak, the event coordinator.

The fundraiser is part of her final project at school and her goal is to raise $3,000. About 250 kids participate in Winnipeg and 400 others in Northern Manitoba.

"This program was created to address the needs of kids left on the sidelines, those kids that were either picked last or not chosen. And those that were simply never given the chance to explore their unique individual potential to be successful," said David Ashcroft, co-chair for the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival Board, which runs C.A.M.P.

Two-time Canadian Juggling Champion Robin Chestnut said the program is not just about learning to juggle, but about helping kids become young productive citizens.

"We are getting values replicated in the culture of learning new skills, all positive forces that I think we want to exist in our society, it’s a great self-esteem builder, and great for confidence," he said.

Chestnut will be performing at the fundraiser and he is well-known for his ability to juggle seven balls. He explained that kids are at the right age for their psychological and social development to fully benefit from positive mentorship.

"It’s also at that time where they’re looking outside their family units for beliefs and values," he said, "The difference in the way kids walk and hold themselves at the end of the week is really amazing."

The at-risk youth can learn skills other than what is offered in their community, and it expands their opportunities. C.A.M.P. also provides short-term employment for former camp participants to act as mentors and group leaders.

"This is a way to reach kids in a way that their parents may or may not be equipped to teach them," said Chestnut.

The participants are referred by school guidance counsellors, resource centres, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Winnipeg Police Service.

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