Those were the three most terrifying words on my third-grade playground because they were most often uttered by the local bully who knew good and well that we couldn’t or were afraid to do whatever he was taunting us to do. And yes, I did once even witness the fabled stick-your-tongue-to-the-steel-bar challenge. The bully was a female in this case and I once made the mistake of mentioning her name in this column . . . something which I’ll not do again.
As we grow older our dares become less threatening. We have more regard for our tongues, I think. And as this summer draws to a close I’ll throw out a dare to anyone willing to take up this challenge. The contest is open to anyone, local or from out of town.
I got the idea as I drove through Community Park this week and for the first time saw the new toy purchased and constructed by the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club. “Toy” is a misnomer. . . more like a “Multi-Play-Plex.” It’s one big glorious honker of a structure and thanks to additional help from the Prairieland Heritage Museum group, Illinois College volunteers, the YPN folks of the Chamber, plus generous donations from Home Depot and R.P. Lumber Company the kids of our area now have their own mini-theme park at no cost to the little ones or their parents. The Parks and Lakes Department (Bruce’s Bruisers), plus a scad of businesses chipped in for the chips and equipment and the result is truly not only an enjoyable and refreshing little spot in the park but it’s downright pretty.
So the dare….no, I’ll get to that later. But I was reminded of my challenge when I spent the summer working with the folks from Passavant Hospital Auxiliary doing a show to raise money for a new emergency vehicle. I’ve done a whole wad of fundraisers in my life and I’ll let you in on a little secret: they’re all nice folks with good causes but many don’t have a clue on the amount of work required. Countless times I’ve been asked to help raise funds for this or that and the sponsoring organization fails to publicize it, doesn’t get enough help, or is simply lazy. But I’m here to tell you that when the Passavant crew gets behind a project, it’s Nellie-bar-the-door. Get out of their way because the Med Team is comin’ through! The things I dislike most about putting on a production are the things that have nothing to do with theatre, the details that take up all my time and anyone could be doing. When you do a show with the Auxiliary it’s like being chauffeured around in a new Mercedes. You simply tell the driver where you want to go.
Now as to the dare…well, wait just another moment.
Last week I was inundated with Tootsie Rolls. Everywhere I stopped I was confronted with a smiling member of the Knights of Columbus holding a can and collecting money for people with intellectual disabilities. No, this was not a Congressional fundraiser, but an annual effort by these fine folks to help out those least able to help themselves. And with each donation came a Tootsie Roll. By the time the day was over I could have made brownies.
And October means Oktoberfest for the Rotarians, a group dedicated to no less goal than bringing peace to the world through their sponsorship of humanitarian services, ethical standards, and bringing people of the world together. Jacksonville’s Rotary are an energetic an active group who after a season of providing scholarships for our young people, throw the gates of the Morgan County Fairgrounds wide open to spread the spirit of fun and games throughout our community.
The Masons, the Elks, the Moose, Lions . . . the Farmers Market, Jacksonville Main Street, the Food Bank, the Warming Center, the Amvets. . . . the Downtown Jacksonville Organization, the Chamber, Big Brothers, United Way, YMCA, Bread of Love, Salvation Army, the Red Cross . . . Whew!
Okay…the schoolyard challenge: I dare you to find a community that works harder than Jacksonville to simply make life worth living. Add to these organizations the various arts venues from the symphony to the Concert in the Cornfield, the art galleries and the theatre and you have a cornucopia of offerings that rivals cities many times our size. So…go ahead….find another place like this…find another group of dedicated volunteers like ours…go ahead. . . I dare you.