‘Only Make Believe’ brings theater to kids in need and gives them chance to use their imagination

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When kids use their imagination, it's magic!

“We were acting and singing and dancing,” Miriam and Harmony said.

Miriam and Harmony love being creative and dressing up.

“I’m wearing a pirate hat, shiver me timber," Miriam smiled. "And I’m wearing the princess hat,” Harmony added.

Both are pre-schoolers at The Gramercy School, which serves children with developmental disabilities.

“You meet the kids the way they are and it’s really more about the vibe or the feeling that you get," C. Antony Bannister, a volunteer, described. "They just want to be regular kids like everyone else.”

C. Anthony Bannister is a professional actor who spends part of his weeks with these little ones, performing shows for and with them.

“I think it’s important to give back in any way you can and to be able to use the gift or the talent that I have to facilitate that is an extreme opportunity and pleasure for me to do that," he said.

He's been doing this for about a decade through the nonprofit 'Only Make Believe.'

“Only Make Believe was started with the mission of bringing joy to children in need,” Dena Hammerstein, founder, said. “We send a team of actors, three actors, who go in with a trunk full of costumes and props made by volunteers and they perform a show that was specifically written for the children."

Dena Hammerstein founded the organization 15 years ago after losing her husband, James, the son of the legendary lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II.

"When my husband died suddenly, obviously he came from an illustrious theatrical family and theater was extremely important to both him and me," she explained. "But I had also been working as a volunteer in a lot of child life centers, so somehow I wanted to bring my love for those two things together in honor of my husband.”

’Only Make Believe' performs in more than 55 hospitals, schools and care centers for more than 55,000 children a year in New York and Washington D.C.

“It’s a joy actually to see little kids so excited," Hammerstein smiled. "It’s an opportunity for them in their minds to leave the hospital walls and everything behind and be whoever they want to be.”

And you can see the impact that type of freedom has on these kids.

"I’m like super happy,” Miriam and Harmony smiled. "Thank you, come back we want to see you again!”


Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi

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