DOWNEY - Valentine's Day comes to Downey a few days early this year as the Performing Arts of Rancho show entitled "Love-Able" comes to the Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center this Friday at 6 p.m.The free performance will showcase nearly 20 Rancho alumni patients who will sing, dance, act and play music to lift the spirits of patients, staff, family and friends. Complimentary refreshments, appetizers and finger foods will be available before and after the event. The Performing Arts of Rancho program is funded by the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, with major support from Supervisor Don Knabe. "This is our 14th show, and our performers have poured their heart and soul into every number," said Performing Arts Director and Rancho patient Jay Cramer. "We have been practicing for months, and I hope the community will come out to enjoy the efforts of our patients, who are putting everything they have into the show." Community members who have attended previous shows have been lavish in their praise of the entertainers. "People really enjoy our shows, and that makes all the work so worthwhile," Jay said. "Now we even have our own house band called Flipside, which is spearheaded by Rancho alumni patient Tony Fernandez." Here are thumbnail sketches of some of Friday's performers: Clara Gayle Denson is Assistant Director of the Performing Arts of Rancho program. After contracting polio at age three and surviving it in the 1950s, Clara thought she had beaten the disease. But then, a half-century later she began having polio-like symptoms again and was referred to Rancho for evaluation. The results show that she had Post-polio syndrome. "I went into a very dark place inside myself for a long time," Clara said. "Fear and denial took hold of my body and spirit," Gayle said. Rancho helped her fight by giving her the tools she needed to live a full and productive life. "The Performing Arts program has been an amazing experience," she said. Tom Ayers almost died last year when a dissection in his aorta badly damaged his spinal cord. He has made an excellent recovery and will be participating in his first Art of Rancho Show on Friday. "Performing is nothing new for me," Tom said. "I started doing comedy in Connecticut when I was 18, and later I worked in places like New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas before moving to Los Angeles." He has worked with comedians such as Jay Leno, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Tim Allen. He has also had roles in "Las Vegas", "The Shield" and "CSI" and has written jokes for television shows and films. Terrie Parker became a patient at Rancho after being shot when she was just six years old. After graduating from high school, she studied psychology and social work at El Camino College. "I hope to become a youth counselor," Terrie said. "I also dream about opening a building for individuals with disabilities who have nowhere to go. I appreciate being involved in the Performing Arts Program because people from all cultures come together in a spirit that is so beautiful." Cain Gallegos was struck by a car while riding his bicycle, which resulted in a major brain stem injury. But thanks to Rancho, he was able to recover well enough to sing and play his guitar in the Performing Arts Show. "Last year's show was one of my first public appearances since my injury," Cain said. "I have been playing the guitar since I was 15, but I never would have made it back to where I am today without the hard work of all my doctors and therapists. Now I know I will sing until the day I die, because music is in my blood." Annette Revilla was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy and Inflammatory Mysostis in August of 2010. Then on Christmas Eve, 2010, she became a patient at Rancho. She will be singing in Friday's show, something she has done for more than 30 years in a variety of settings. She has performed with the Pasadena Pops, the jester Harrison Chorale for Cal State Los Angeles and Sierra Madre's Chorale, Big Bands and "Remember One vocal group. She has even starred in "Carmen" and "The Pirates of Penzance." Now she will star in the Performing Arts of Rancho show. " I want to thank everyone at Rancho for bringing me back to life," Annette said. These are but a few of the performers who will entertain on Friday night. "I hope the community will come out and support us, because it means a lot to every one of us to see a packed audience with people who are pulling for us to do our best," Jay said. "We are all excited to be performing together just before Valentine's Day, because the Performing Arts of Rancho program has filled our hearts with hope for the future." For further information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit rancho.org, facebook.com/rancholosamigosrehab or twitter.com/ranchorehab.
********** Published: February 9, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 43