Theatrical Musings
Broadway's Birthday Girl Gifts Others
By Tommy Garrett
Mar 24, 2011 - 6:00:32 PM

HOLLYWOOD—“No gifts” was the request made by actress Carol Channing prior to her recent 90th birthday celebration held at a local theatre in Los Angeles. In fact, it is Channing who is giving the gift. She has 90 years of unique life experiences to offer America's children.


In the last year, Ms. Channing has been making appearances geared toward raising awareness and fundraising for over 30 public schools, ranging from elementary to universities with regard to the need for Arts in the curriculum. Most recently, Widney High School benefited by a personal appearance and performance by the Broadway legend, who also donated percussion instruments and a state of the art sound system for the school's auditorium. “Requests like this are coming in daily,” says Channing’s husband and foundation co-founder, Harry Kullijian. “I truly wish we could do them all.”


Widney High School is a special education high school in Los Angeles, which is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The school is named in honor of Dr. Joseph Pomeroy Widney, a prominent early Los Angeles resident. The school serves students ranging in age from 13 to 22 who have moderate to severe disabilities. Because students are bussed to the Central Los Angeles school from surrounding communities, its student body reflects diverse cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds.


Widney students all have cognitive challenges that include autism, visual impairments, orthopedic impairments, developmental delays, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities. The school is a multi-service educational facility providing safe, diverse, challenging, progressive and community-based experiences for individuals of all abilities and disabilities. In their stimulating environment, staff, parents and community work as a team where the assessed needs of students are placed and met first. In addition to functional academics and life skills development, students are offered the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of programs and activities.


A very important part of the curriculum is that students participate in the community while attending concerts, museums and cultural events that helps develop other necessary skills. “Its like fertilizer on the brain for the young,” says Channing. While signing many of the instruments, she adds, “We don’t need to save the Arts, we need the Arts to help save our children.”


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Photographs are Courtesy: Widney High School

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