Families affected by autism enjoyed puppets, magic at “Lions and Tigers and Birds” celebration

Zoe and Michael share the stage — and red noses — with puppeteer and magician Geoff Navias at a performance for the Margaret Wiliiams Center.

Michael, a 9-year-old boy from Camillus, smiled as he described being on stage with a magician: “It was really, really cool.”

The magician was part of the Nov. 3 “Lions & Tigers & Birds, Oh My!” celebration for the Margaret L. Williams Developmental Evaluation Center and the Kohl’s Autism & Related Disorders Program.

“I was holding one orange ball. He was holding one red ball. Then, I opened my hand and I was holding the orange AND  red balls,” Michael explained. “I am still wondering how that guy did the trick. Maybe he has a teleporting device.”

Mythical bird-puppets entertained the crowd.

Michael was one of close to 100 children and adults who packed into a Syracuse church to watch magicians and jugglers cavort with giant puppets from Open Hand Theater. There were ostrich-like birds and penguins dancing on stage, elephants waddling in the aisles…even a tiger who yanked the pants off a lion tamer, exposing bright pink boxer shorts and delighting the crowd.

During a brief intermission, Carey, a KidSpeak puppet with Asperger syndrome, accepted a giant check from employees of Kohl’s department stores, saying, “Seven was my favorite number. Now $247,299 is my favorite number!”

After the stage performance, snacks were served, and puppets mingled with guests. Sally, a KidSpeak puppet with autism, found a friend in Alexandria, 8, of Chittenango. Alexandria, who has Rett syndrome, laughed and smiled throughout the afternoon performance.

The celebration was in honor of the 30thanniversary of the Margaret Williams  Center and the seventh anniversary of support from Kohl’s Cares. The center, which  sees children with complex developmental disabilities, is a joint program of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, Kohl’s Cares and the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

Alexandria, 8, of Chittenango laughs with Sally, a puppet with autism. In the back is puppeteer Terry Kiritsis, who is a special educator at the Margaret Williams Center.

About susankeeter

Occasional contributor Upstate’s Susan Keeter has written about and painted Upstate’s Dr. Sarah Loguen, one of the first African American women physicians. Keeter created the horse sculpture in front of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and illustrated a children’s book on autism, “Waiting for Benjamin.” She’s written for Physician Practice, Upstate Alumni Journal, Cancer Care and Upstate Health magazines. Reach her by email at keeters@upstate.edu or by phone at 315-464-4834.
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