Sherwood Park Makes a Splash

By Emily Fedor

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Everyone deals with grief differently, but three Dunmore families that each faced a loss of their own chose to turn their grief into something positive and honor their loved ones in a very special way.

The Zayac family lost their “Sweet Baby Jude” in 2014 as the result of SIDS—Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Mark and Diane Michalczyk’s son Ryan passed away in his sleep in 2009. And Dorothy French Conway lost her long and bravely fought 11-year battle with ovarian cancer in 2011.

Carol Conway, Dorothy’s mother-in-law, said that at the end of Dorothy’s life, she wanted a play area where children could gather and enjoy summertime fun to be constructed.

“She was such a wonderful mother and educator…and she loved children,” said Conway. “She just felt that establishing something would give them a focus. They needed to know that they were important. She was the most selfless person.”

With similar hopes of finding a way to give back to the community and memorialize their own loved ones, the Zayacs and the Michalczyks appeared to be the perfect partners to make that dream a reality.

***

Years ago, Sherwood Park was home to a small wading pool, an area where many children were able to play and keep cool during the hot summer months. But in 2006, the pool was drained and filled in.

Susan Brace, treasurer of the Sherwood Youth Association, said, “We had to fill in the pool because of rising insurance costs. We had to keep a lifeguard on duty, and the pool was actually deteriorating.”

Brace said the idea of creating another water attraction was in the making for years, but the organization never thought they would be able to secure the funds needed to make the idea a reality.

In 2008, Tammy Robson, a former Sherwood Youth member, did a college project on installing a splash pad at the park in the same spot where the old wading pool once stood. Robson included pictures and financial estimates and ultimately made the concept a little more concrete.

“This has been an on-going idea for years,” said Brace. “We saw them [splash pads]  in the area and wanted to build something where they [local children] could enjoy the summer months, but we never thought we’d be able to do it because we never thought we’d be able to raise enough funds.”

The Dunmore Summer Festival hosted annually at the park brought in some funds, but it was not until the Michalzyk family brought in the first major donation in May of 2014 that things finally got moving.

Diane Michalzyk said that her family worked to remodel the park area at St. Anthony’s Memorial Playground in Dunmore in 2011 in memory of her son Ryan. They had an idea to construct a water attraction there but quickly realized it was a big project to tackle alone. So when they heard Sherwood had a similar idea, they immediately jumped on board.

“With the combined resources from the families and Sherwood Park, we were able to accomplish that project faster than if we went at it on our own,” said Michalzyk, “and the experience was just priceless.”

Shortly after, the Conway and Zayac families heard about the park’s splash pad plans and joined the efforts to make the concept a reality. And with that, the dream team was fully assembled.

Each family had a memorial foundation established in names of those they lost—the Jude Zayac Foundation, the Ryan Mason Michalzyk Memorial Fund and the Dorothy French Conway Memorial. Different fundraisers that each family conducted provided crucial funds that allowed construction to begin. Sherwood Youth also qualified for a $45,000 state grant funded by Mount Airy Casino Resort slots revenues—a share of money distributed annually under the 2004 slots law.

In March, the final design was completed, the splash pad equipment was purchased from Aquatic Recreation Company, based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and construction plans began to play out. Reilly Landscaping excavated the former wading pool area in May once the frozen winter ground finally thawed, and in June, Perry’s General Contracting was chosen to spearhead the splash pad construction.

At the end of  nearly a month of construction, the non-slip finish was applied to the concrete surface, and the Splash and Play Zone was finally ready to be revealed.

The officers of the Sherwood Youth Association hosted a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting to open the pad for public use on Sunday, July 19. The national anthem was sung by Thomas Pyeron, and a blessing was given by Rev. John A. Doris. Additionally, Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney and each of the families were presented with plaquesa token of gratitude for the part they played in bringing the concept of the splash pad to life.

After a balloon release, the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon and the unveiling of a monument honoring Jude, Ryan and Dorothy, children from each of the three families pressed the activation ballard togetherturning on the splash pad for the first time.

Greg Zayac, father of Jude Zayac, admitted that the day was a bittersweet but enjoyed seeing all the families who came out for the opening playing on the splash pad and having a good time.

“It was a little emotional,” said Zayac. “It’s unfortunate that we all had to lose someone for this to be a reality, but it’s really been inspiring and helpful in our grieving process. I think it’s a great thing for the community, and the kids really love it.”

***

The Sherwood Youth Association is now preparing for their annual summer festival, which will take place on August 13, 14 and 15. The fun-filled event will be the perfect platform to showcase the park’s new attraction and allow locals to enjoy some hot summer nights.

Dunmore Drama Directors Celebrate 10 Years

By Emily Fedor

Dawn and Brian McGurl prepare to put on a summer show at Dunmore High School.

Dawn and Brian McGurl play some tunes in the Dunmore High School auditorium as they prepare to put on their upcoming production, the 10 Year Alumni Cabaret. (Credit: Emily Fedor)

Brian and Dawn McGurl have created not only a club at Dunmore High School, but a family. This year marks the their 10-year anniversary as directors of the Crimson Company, Dunmore’s distinguished drama club, and they’re choosing to plan a family reunion the only way they know how—as a show.

The McGurls put together a show-stopping “alumni show” for their five-year anniversary with the club back in 2010, but this summer’s production is bound to be bigger and better as it will showcase double the talent.

Crimson Company alumni of the past ten years have been invited back to the stage they once called their home to take part in a cabaret style production. It will commemorate both past and future Crimson Company shows as well as celebrate the art of theatre as a whole with a plethora of toe-tapping musical numbers.

Emily Fedor sat down with Brian and Dawn to take a trip down memory lane and talk about their ten year journey as well as the upcoming alumni show and their plans for the future.

***

Emily Fedor: So how did you two first get involved with the DHS Crimson Company?

Brian McGurl: Mary Errico was the drama director, and our son Michael was involved.

Dawn McGurl: We helped out because that’s our thing, and I costumed “Guys and Dolls.” We were sitting in the house watching a rehearsal and Ms. Errico said that she was about to get married, and she thought it was time for her to step down. She just said “Would you two be interested in taking over? And we were like: “Wow. Yes, we’d love it!”

EF: How was the beginning of that journey for you?

DM: It was awesome. The kids were great. It was tough because the culture here is so sports-oriented. So for us, it was difficult to try to make those in-roads in the community. But everyone—Coach Henzes, Mr. Forgione, the parents, the community—was so welcoming and so supportive.

383861_2618237229414_1807469053_n

Members of the Crimson Company perform in “A Shepherd’s Christmas Play,” an original play by the McGurls, in 2011. (Credit: Kyle Svecz)

EF: Were there any big changes you made?

DM: We took the program to a different level. Before we took over, they used to do a musical every other year and then one play. We said that we can’t truly instruct that way. When you’re starting out, there are kids who aren’t quite there yet, and they need to have that experience before it’s their time to shine. So that [doing two shows a year] was the biggest change.

EF: What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to tackle?

BM: When we started, our own kids were in it [the club], and all of the kids who were involved were our kids’ friends. Half the cast had been at sleepovers at our house throughout the years. These we like our kids, basically. Then once they graduated, the challenge has been trying to keep up with those kids that aren’t our own kids.

DM: That was a very big shift. Mr. McGurl teaches here so he knows the kids, but the feeling is different. We’ve also had other things that have happened, like losing Kelcey [Hallinan]. There are a lot of problems people don’t know are happening, and those things are heartbreaking. Life itself is always such a big challenge.

EF: What’s been the biggest reward for you over the years?

BM: Every show is its own reward. It’s so much fun to work on every show with the cast that we have and to create the thing that happens up on the stage. It’s really so much fun to have an idea and make it happen with a big group of people. It’s a ball.

DM: The most rewarding thing is sharing our passion with others and seeing what it does to their life. To see that freshman who is nervous and scared and see that transformation that they don’t see up close. That growth—that change—that you see in a kid…it’s so amazing to see.

34447_1394511456848_1435676_n

Crimson Company alumni perform a number from Dunmore’s 2009 production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” (Credit: Emily Fedor)

EF: Do you have a favorite show out of those that you’ve done?

DM: We talk about this all the time. I loved “Once Upon a Mattress.” But I loved “Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat],” too. That was such a special show—it was the perfect storm.

BM: I have a hard time picking because I love major parts of every one.

EF: Let’s switch to the present then: the alumni show. Where did that idea come from?

BM: We had a five-year plan when we took over. Dunmore is a sports town, and people thought “Oh, you can’t do theatre in Dunmore…” But our goal was to make Dunmore a theatre town, too, which we did. It’s on the map now of something that could happen. That was our goal for five years.

DM: Once we got there, we asked the kids if they wanted to come back, and they did. So we did that.

EF: What’s this show going to be like? Will it be different from the five-year anniversary show?

DM: This will be interesting to see because this spans ten years. Some of the kids are married and have kids. They have big boy and big girl jobs. But we’ve gotten a great response so far. It’s going to be the same format as the fifth year show. We’ll do a couple production numbers—maybe the Megamix [from “Joseph”]—and a choral piece. We’d really like to do something from all ten shows, but we’ll throw some new stuff in, too. It’s going to be a nice reset and energizer for the community and the students.

EF: Not that I want to ask this, but it’s my job… Now that it’s been 10 years, do you see an end in sight?

BM: I’m in my thirtieth year of my teaching career. 35 is the goal so I’m looking at retiring from Dunmore. The thing is that this is a club here, and the thing about extracurriculars is that this extends the classroom. There should be an active teacher in the district doing this.

10376748_10152960693118034_5289006223740484227_n

The alumni of the Crimson Company will take the stage on June 23 and 24. (Courtesy: Brian and Dawn McGurl)

DM: We want to leave it in capable hands because it’s important to us, and we think it’s important to the community and the students—especially when they’re cutting art funding left and right. But…we have planned out the next five shows. We’ll probably get a fifteenth year, but that could change. We don’t know.

***

The Crimson Company’s 10 Year Alumni Cabaret will be held Tuesday, June 23 and Wednesday, June 24at the Dunmore High School auditorium. The curtain will rise at 7:00 p.m. All proceeds from the show will help fund future Crimson Company productions and endeavors.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.52.11 AM