Group Repertory Theatre Company Gives Back
It's the most wonderful time of the year, especially for the Group Repertory Theatre Company, which for the past 36 years has provided holiday cheer for children-in-need.
Longtime GRT members Irene Chapman and Janet Wood organized this year's event. The planning and fundraising for the event begins as early August. This year, in addition to contributions from GRT members' family and friends, employees of the Turner Entertainment Network Original Programming Group as well as Marina Haroutunian, Christine Holmes and Hilary Wagner have made the Holiday Kids Party their charity for toy donations.
Starting in 1995, Alan served as Santa Claus for several years in the annual kids show. Although his involvement in the company had waned, Alan was asked again to perform as Santa at the 2002 Kids Holiday Party. After the show, Santa gives out gifts to all of the kids. As Alan aka 'Santa' made his exit, he felt his Santa pants falling down and he turned around to find this little child, tugging at Santa's pants to get his attention. Natalie (not her real name) looked up and said, "Santa, thank you for the greatest Christmas I have ever had."
Alan shared the story about the little girl with his fiancé. She said, "That's a nice story. Maybe we could look into foster care or adoption after we're married."
"We married in February 2003 and around May 2003 we started the discussion again about foster/adoption. We took a five-week training class for foster parents at a local adoption agency; these used to be called orphanages. During a break in one of the sessions, I was looking out of the classroom window when, across my sight line ran Natalie. I had no idea she was at this foster agency. I called my wife over to the window and said "there's that girl that I told you about."
In May of 2005, two years later, we received a phone call from the trainer asking if we were still interested in fostering a child. We decided we were. My wife and I began to meet with Natalie and her staff at the foster agency," continued Alan. "We started slow by taking her out to lunch, then dinner then a movie, then a play. Soon it was overnights and after about three months she came to live with us for good."
Late in the process, just before Natalie came to live with Alan and his wife, they learned that she had a younger brother. He spent time with them on weekends and then came to live with them as well. Eventually, both Natalie and her brother were adopted and the family was complete.
In December 2010, the Group Rep called and asked Alan to play Santa again. He had lost a significant amount of weight in the ensuing years, but he donned the costume and did so again at this year's Kids Holiday Party.
Most, if not all of the theatre members and volunteers, knew nothing of this story until a couple of years ago, when they met Alan's kids at the 2010 Kids Holiday Party. When Alan told them the story, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. And, to paraphrase what Janet Wood said earlier, "All in all, it was a terrific, heartwarming day!"