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February 18, 2004

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind performs in Englewood

From: Charlotte Sun-Herald - Charlotte,FL,USA - Feb 18, 2004

The Rotonda West Woman's Club did Englewood a huge favor last Saturday night. They introduced us to the lip-synching, dancing performers of the Florida School for the Deal and the Blind. By that action, they gave the students the opportunity to strut their stuff and show us how unlimiting their disabilities can be. We enjoyed a lot, and we learned a lot.

By evening's end, we had seen heard enough to know we want to have the troupe back for an encore performance. We want more of our friends and neighbors to see and hear what public education can do when given an assignment and the wherewithal to do the job. We want them to see these musical, rhythmical rocking swingers.

The troupe came from St. Augustine, where the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is located in 43 major buildings on 70 acres of land. Students from all over the state go there to be educated, from pre-kindergarden through 12th grade. It is an accredited public school, like Englewood Elementary, L.A. Ainger Middle School and Lemon Bay High. The students angst over -- and must pass -- the same FCAT tests. More than 70 percent of the students pursue higher education.

Carol Ullrich of the Rotonda West Woman's Club chaired the event. She admits that creating an audience for the program was not the easiest thing she's done. The club ran ads, they made phone calls, they talked it up whenever they had the opportunity -- and several hundred curious people showed up Saturday night to see what all the talk was about.

"Everyone was surprised at what they saw and heard -- people didn't have any idea what to expect," Ullrich said following the concert. "They were bowled over by the demonstration of talent."

A number of audience members said, in one way or another, "If I'd known how good this was going to be, I'd have brought a friend (or neighbor, or spouse, or parents, etc.) with me." Carol Ullrich and other members of the Rotonda West Woman's Club heard the talk and have already sprung into action.

"We are definitely working to bring them back here next year. They're more than willing to return -- they had a terrific time during their stay here," Ullrich said.

Who paid? The school arranged bus transportation for the students. The Rotonda West Woman's Club was responsible for all else. That means, mainly, food and motel rooms plus the rental fee on the Lemon Bay auditorium. Some 30 club members donated food and cooked five meals during the weekend; the Veranda Inn chipped in with a special rate. This year, all expenses, as well as a stipend to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, were covered by a request for free-will donations from the audience. Event chairperson Ullrich wants to express special thanks to the Veranda Inn, and to Doris Walker and Laura Alessandro for their above-and-beyond help.

And the audience thanks Cheryl Johnson and the 16 performers from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind for coming to dance for us. We hope they enjoyed their weekend as much as we enjoyed having them here.


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