on August 17, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Special musical performance raises funds and awareness

Special musical performance raises funds and awareness

The premise of the musical “Together” is that by uniting youths who feel isolated or unappreciated with seniors, who often feel the same, great things can happen.

The musical — playing the Lakewood Cultural Center Aug. 19-28 — features a cast with an age range of 9 to 88 to explore that concept. But the idea isn’t just for the stage. The play doubles as a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization, Bessie’s Hope, which actually does bring together disenfranchised youth with nursing home seniors.

“There’s that generational power of this, with these kids realizing these old folks are cool,” said Linda Holloway, co-founder of Bessie’s Hope.

Holloway, along with co-founders Sharron Brandrup and Marge Utne, founded the organization after seeing the conditions that the elderly, such as Holloway’s grandmother Bessie, had to endure in nursing homes. Now in its 22nd year, the organization helps find volunteers, trains them in how to have meaningful interactions with elders at all levels of cognitive functioning, and connects them with senior care facilities across the Denver metro area.

The original musical “Together” was written by the Bessie’s Hope founders in 1994. It was last staged in 2001. The organization puts on a performance of it every few years to help raise money and awareness for its mission, said Holloway.

This year’s show features a cast of 25 and a four-person crew.

“The 88-year-old happens to be my mother,” Holloway said, adding that grandmother Bessie made sure music, including piano lessons, was part of her family.

The cast also includes performers of all skill levels, from an 82-year-old former Broadway performer to first-timers.

A musical was an apt medium for spreading the organization’s message, since music therapy has been shown to be effective with brightening the moods of dementia patients, Holloway said, which is something she saw firsthand with her grandmother.

“She’d take my little keyboard and plink out her favorite songs,” Holloway said. “I’d play them back to her and play a wrong note on purpose and she’d immediately notice.”

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