I had a two set afternoon with the kids and counselors at Camp Smile, a gathering for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley. It’s held on the campus of Cedar Crest College and the crew and kids were resplendent in tie-dyed tee shirts on this first day of the camp. There was some heavy storms on the way so we decided to move inside the Tomkins Center for the sessions. I was just part of the action today, with a water slide and several Star Wars characters roaming the facility, too, including the heavy-breathing Darth Vader.

As is always the case in these situations, I insisted that the counselors be integrated in the ‘show’, and they all got the message, though, several times I would stop the music and focus attention on one counselor to actively commit to the motions (with feeling!). It worked and they understood their role as mentors.

There were few kids who were somewhat hesitant to join in, and I had to remind myself of the situations some of the kids are in. Some have cancer, while others have members of their family dealing with the disease. But my job is to brighten things up, get them singing, laughing and moving. That’s what we did and the folks who hired me were pleased with the results.

During the shows, Darth could be heard just outside the doorway and would occasionally pop in to say hello. That was definitely a show stopper as the kids would go nuts, and I was unsure how to connect his visits with my music. Once, as he exited, I even mentioned that he was a party pooper for not sticking around. Eventually, he and two stormtroopers came in and one of the counselors called me out for saying that about him, and a big groan went up from the crowd. It was pretty funny. I then made the mistake of saying Star Trek instead of Star Wars, and I was now in pretty deep with the Dark Lord.

I figured I’d get Darth to dance, so I quickly introduced All Around the Kitchen, got the kids up, had several of the kids come up with some dance moves and soon Darth, the stormtroopers, counselors and kids were all boogying. The atmosphere was electric and incredibly funny. I really appreciate the actors in those costumes being loose enough to follow my lead and some rich theater popped up out of nowhere. There was so much joy in the room.

I was reflecting on this as I awoke this morning, and the symbolism is fairly obvious. These kids are wrestling with their own dark lords every day, with cancer in their lives, in their families. And sometimes you just have to dance with the devil in order to process it all. It was a very curious way to do it but it turned out to be a spontaneous and creative way to express such feelings. I was in awe of the process and proud to be a catalyst for a part of it. It was a glorious riot!