Saving Children’s Lives, Theatre Unlimited, Build-A-Bear, and ‘The Next to Normal’

Columnist Lois Caplan

By Lois Caplan

SAVING CHILDREN’S LIVES, ONE AT A TIME is the goal of the Children’s Heart Foundation (CHF), the country’s leading organization solely committed to funding congenital heart defect research. The mission of this charitable organization is to bring health, hope and happiness to children impacted by congenital heart defects, the No. 1 birth defect in the United States.  Nearly one in every 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect, the leading cause of infant deaths.  CHF, a national organization and its newly established Missouri Chapter, fund the most promising research to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of congenital heart defects, including at both Washington University and St. Louis University.

Typically, I don’t write about Trivia Nights. But then I thought about the 40,000 babies born annually in the U.S. with heart defects and realized it’s really the cause that matters. The Children’s Heart Foundation-Missouri Chapter, which was established in 2010, will hold its inaugural fundraiser Trivia Night from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Boulevard. Roberta Cohen, a founding board member of CHF and the grandmother of a baby born with a heart defect, suggests that people bring their own team to compete for great prizes. Musical will feature Silk Pajamas and beer, soda and water will be available. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own favorite foods and snacks, but please, no pork or shellfish as a courtesy to CRC. Admission is $25 per person but if you pre-register before March 1 your table of 10 will cost only $200.  To reserve your place either for yourself or for your team, call the CHF-MO chapter at 314-276-4462 or email [email protected].


THEATRE UNLIMITED, a unique program at the Jewish Community Center designed for adults with disabilities, has brought the excitement of theatrical performing to life. Participants act, sing, dance and shine on Center Stage, all in the barrier-free setting. Theatre Unlimited is celebrating its 25th year, and there are some people who have been participating in these shows since the beginning. This year’s show is “Damn Yankees.” Performances are 7 p.m. Thursday, March 17th and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 20th at the J’s Staenberg Arts and Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive.  “The show is done like a concert performance with very little moving around, and lots of chorus parts for the cast of 40,” says Hillary Zimmerman, mother of Joanna who will play the part of Welsh, the owner of the Washington Senators. “Some (in the cast) are severely disabled so this is all a minor miracle. This is Joanna’s second year with Theatre Unlimited, having played Potiphar in last year’s ‘Joseph and the Amazing Dream Coat.’ This has become a much anticipated activity for her, as it is for the entire group.” For more information and to arrange to see “Damn Yankees” call Inclusion Coordinator at the JCC, Anne Gibbs at 314-442-3295 or visit her at [email protected].

BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP, that remarkable enterprise founded in 1997 by St. Louisan Maxine Clark, today operates more than 400 Build-A-Bear workshops worldwide. Along with success, philanthropic Clark initiated a program to recognize and encourage young leaders, ages 8 to 18, who provide extraordinary service in their communities and around the world. The eighth annual search for these special people is now on.  Anyone, ages 8 and above, is eligible to nominate a candidate (kids can nominate themselves) by visiting Nominations will be accepted through February 28.

Entries will be narrowed down and ultimately 10 new Huggable Heroes will be selected.  Each new Huggable Hero will receive a $7,500 scholarship toward his or her college education and a $2,500 donation from the Build-A-Bear Workshop foundation for a charity of choice.  In addition the youthful heroes will win a trip for themselves and a guardian to St. Louis, Build-A-Bear Workshop World Bearquarters. Chief Executive Bear (that’s Clark) says, “While the monetary prize provides an incentive, it also represents an investment in both the causes these kids support and their education so they can continue to cultivate their leadership skills and achieve even bigger goals.”

SAVE THE DATE of April 21 when the Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning Broadway musical, “The Next to Normal” will be at the Fox Theatre.  This evening will be a fundraiser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that features a reception with some cast members.  Arlen Chaleff, Vice President of the Board of NAMI St. Louis, is thrilled at the prospect of raising awareness and dollars for families and professionals living with mental illnesses.