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New Ed F. Sullivan Show: Ageless talent for a good cause

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010


Ed F. Sullivan has never seen any of his famous namesake's shows, but he's heard about the other Ed Sullivan his entire life. He's not a showman, he's the director of the Adult Day Care of Calvert County (ADC), a private, nonprofit organization located in the Calvert Memorial Hospital complex in Prince Frederick.

ADC serves a community of people of all ages who have mental or physical challenges that require daily care. It provides daily care for people who have survived terrible accidents, people with Alzheimer's or dementia, advanced nerve disease such as MS — multiple sclerosis — or other debilitating traumas that make 24/7 care a necessity.

People who have no health issues, who can come and go at will, can't imagine how isolating such conditions can be, even with a devoted family caregiver at home.

ADC provides a social experience as well as physical care — a place to go to interact with other people and with the organization's talented, empathetic caregivers.

Sullivan, who came on board as director last year, immediately saw the need for a new handicapped–accessible van. The center's current vans are 13 years old and need to be retired. The cost of such a fully-equipped vehicle was considerably beyond the ADC's ordinary budget.

Sullivan, who is a very resourceful fundraiser, thought of a way to capitalize on his name. The result was the first of what is planned to be an annual variety show, "The New Ed F. Sullivan Show." This year's entertainment included singers, a band and a dance troupe. The only proviso for selecting the performers — aside from talent and ability — was that every performer had to be at least 50 years old.

The show, which was presented on Sept. 25 at Huntingtown High School, showed how many talented locals also were eligible for AARP membership. The show followed the traditional variety show all-singing, all-dancing format. The Chesapeake Swing Band played the opening numbers and also functioned as the house orchestra. The band began playing as the audience was getting seated, and accompanied the preliminary audio-visual show before the main acts; a large screen onstage showed a menage of famous performers from the old Ed Sullivan show.

This introductory photo show was followed by a short, very affecting video featuring one of ADC's regular clients. This person was Noreen Stedman, one of the founders of Calvert Fitness, who taught aerobic dancing for years. She is afflicted with Alzheimer's. The video was narrated by her husband, Scott Stedman, who explained how the ADC helps his wife by providing the care she needs. The days she spends at the ADC give him, her full-time caregiver, a brief respite for three days a week. The video was an emotional experience for me, since I was a regular in Noreen's aerobic classes for several years.

Just like television, Ed. F. Sullivan's introduction to each act was followed by a "commercial" for each sponsor. Each sponsor's product was announced over the sound system, and a large placard, set on an easel, was exhibited onstage during each act.

The Iverson Mall Walkers Line Dancers, a troupe of 16 women and two men — all older than 60 — gave an amazing performance. The dancers performed an entire aerobics workout in a line dance format, in perfect time and synchronization with the music.

Mary Butler, a singer with the deepest and richest contralto I've ever heard, used her voice to marvelous effect for two gospel songs, "Amazing Grace" and "Precious Blood." Her voice is not only unusually deep for a woman, it has a cello-like quality that made these old hymns a real act of devotion.

John Garner admitted he has a partiality for cowboy songs that tell a story — and told and sang two of them — accompanying himself on his acoustic guitar and harmonica. Diva Rose, in a striking red dress and glittery jewelry, is a woman with a lot of stage presence, and who is very much at home onstage. She performed her own interpretations of popular ballads.

Clare O'Shea, a professional actor and entertainer, demonstrated her impressive lung power and larger than life personality in the show's first and second acts, all to her audience's delight. O'Shea, who admits to being 64 years old, told the audience, "Being over sixty doesn't mean you have to die creatively."

The four men of the barbershop quartet Southern Blend showed their perfect pitch on such old favorites as "This Little Light of Mine" and "Sentimental Journey." Harriett Yaffe played piano and sang two numbers, one dedicated to her husband, and the second, she said, dedicated to herself, because she'd loved it from the first time she heard it. This is Yaffe's avocation. In her other life she is the director of the Arc of Southern Maryland, a community organization for the developmentally disabled.

Joyce Kinser's soprano rang out on Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," which she dedicated, "to the Armed Forces and the American people."

Each act was judged by a four-member panel of local experts and celebrities: Doug Hill, the well-known Channel 7 meteorologist and Huntingtown resident, Nick Garrett, director of the Garrett Music Academy, Carolyn McHugh, president of the Calvert Chamber of Commerce and Linda Patton, supervisor of instruction for cultural arts for Calvert County Public Schools. The panel had the responsibility for awarding cash prizes for the first, second and third best acts.

The judges' choices were: first prize to Harriet Yaffe, second to Southern Blend and third to Joyce Kinser. The Chesapeake Swing Orchestra closed out the performance with swing tunes that had most of the audience toe-tapping.

If there was a first prize awarded for creative fundraising, the New Ed F. Sullivan Show would win hands-down. We all like to support good causes, and have the satisfaction of helping the community. But this fundraiser gave back so much real, immediate enjoyment to its supporters. The ADC, its staff and volunteers must be congratulated for all of the work — hours and hours of their time — to organize a production this complex. Ed F. Sullivan proved he could do as well as that other Sullivan; better, actually, since he's doing it for an organization he believes in. It should become an annual, not-to-be missed Calvert tradition, like the Hospice Festival of Trees.

Hopefully ADC realized enough profit from this show to purchase that new special van with all the equipment they need for their clients, many of whom are in wheelchairs. But even if ADC now has enough in the piggy bank for that purchase, there's a list of other needs that would go a long way toward making the lives of their clients a little brighter.

For further information, see the ADC website at www.adcofcalvertcounty.org., or phone Sullivan at 410-535-0133. He'll be more than happy to talk about what the ADC does.

patullberg@comcast.net

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