One often hears that a small town has nothing to offer. As a youth growing up in Bashaw, I had held that same perspective — yet moved “back home” as a young adult with my children because I felt it was important for them to grow up near family. It wasn’t until recently, though, 13 years after I returned to this community, that I truly saw the selflessness that resonates within this small town.
The end of last November echoed the songs of the Bashaw Community Theatre production of Beauty and the Beast through the streets. Every year, I try to take in whatever is being performed, as I am always amazed at not only the amount, but the calibre of talent that is demonstrated by so many people.
This year, however, there was a bigger reason that I was going to take in Beauty and the Beast. This year, my aunt, cousin and her daughter were going to be joining us at the Nov. 23 production.
Now, one would say, What is the big deal? Family often goes to plays and the like together. But this would be a very special night for my cousin’s daughter, Katha McGregor, who is just seven years old. Katha was diagnosed in October with a fatal, and extremely debilitating disease called Niemann-Pick, and every moment that a memory can be made, and an opportunity for joy to be had, is of utmost importance.
Knowing just how exciting this event would be for Katha, and of her deteriorating health circumstances, I asked Lori Miller, producer of the production, if it would be OK to reserve a seat near the front of the church, and have an opportunity for Katha to speak with “Belle” and maybe some of the other characters after the play. Lori responded that it could easily be done. Small-town familiarity makes it easy to approach a producer of a play and make such a request — something less likely to be achieved in a larger centre. But the seating reservation was the least of what was prepared for Katha.
Lori involved the entire cast in making this a night that would be impossible for all of us to forget, not just Katha.
Lori enlisted Roxanne Miller to put together a beautifully bound photo album containing pictures of numerous scenes from the play.
Loraine Anderson was put in charge of sewing an amazing pillow that replicated Belle’s gown on one side and the Beast’s outfit on the other. Lori created a beautiful enchanted rose. Cindy Hunter also gathered snippets of material from the main costumes, and they were placed inside a clear heart-shaped ornament that could be hung on the Christmas tree, to which Lori added Katha’s ticket stub for the show. Garett Haynes ensured that a cast T-shirt was given to Katha as well, and Dwayne Bamber personally ushered us to front-row seats, where all of this was waiting, and checked on what we needed throughout the performance.
But it didn’t end there. The entire cast of more than 50 members signed well-wishes to Katha, pictures were taken with both “Belle” and the “Beast,” and many cast members came up to speak to Katha personally after the show. What makes all of this even more overwhelming is the fact that I spoke to Lori only about a seat reservation and did this late Wednesday evening, and the performance we attended was on Friday night … all this was pulled together in less than a day and a half!
And all for a little girl visiting our community, with only the expectation of watching one of her favourite stories.
Small towns have nothing to offer? Did I mention the word overwhelming? Did I speak to how much my family was touched by the generosity and kindness, empathy, compassion and lavishness bestowed on us?
In fact, through our tears that evening, it was hard to even properly thank those who had so graciously, lovingly blessed Katha … and blessed us. Words are hard to find to describe how appreciative, and just how thankful we are to Lori, and the cast and supporting crew of the Beauty and the Beast production.
It is important to note that Katha’s disease does not allow her to process things right away, but the next day, she slowly took each item out of the bag it had been placed in, looked at it, touched it, and placed her head on the pillow. Her family was leaving for Disneyland the next Sunday. She insisted on wearing her Beauty and the Beast T-shirt on the plane. Terese, Katha’s mom, wrote in her blog:
“She was in seventh heaven. In fact, when we met Belle at our character breakfast, she told her that she liked the other Belle better. Luckily, the Disney Belle didn’t exactly understand her, lol.”
This story really adds a different perspective to “small towns have nothing to offer,” doesn’t it?
With much gratitude for all that you have done to bless the family of a very special little girl, we thank you, Lori and the entire Bashaw Community Theatre.
Connie Nand (on behalf of the Katha McGregor family)