Kids on the Block

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle On May 31, CATCO performers Annie Huckaba and Dayton Willison (pictured at the table) came to West Broad Elementary to perform a Bunraku show to teach third graders the importance of accepting peers with physical or mental disabilities. After the show, students Yasmin Carbagal, Aiden Sturgill, Money Cowan and Denise Dominguez gathered with the performers and the puppets to talk about the lessons they learned from the performance.
Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
On May 31, CATCO performers Annie Huckaba and Dayton Willison (pictured at the table) came to West Broad Elementary to perform a Bunraku show to teach third graders the importance of accepting peers with physical or mental disabilities. After the show, students Yasmin Carbagal, Aiden Sturgill, Money Cowan and Denise Dominguez gathered with the performers and the puppets to talk about the lessons they learned from the performance.

When Dayton Willison would see people picking on his brother, his first reaction was to go up and confront them for their actions.

“More times than once did I get into trouble for going over and telling them to back off,” he said.

At such a young age, Willison says he did not know any other way to handle a situation in which their peers said or did cruel things to his sibling. All he knew was that pointed confrontation seemed to be the only way to get some of their classmates to stop being nasty to his brother who had autism.

Flash forward a decade or so to when Willison was offered the opportunity to perform with Kids on the Block, an educational program from CATCO is Kids in which puppet plays are used to help children gain an understanding of those who may act or look different from themselves.

In the show that led Willison and fellow troupe member Annie Huckaba to West Broad Elementary on May 31, one of the three topics covered was knowing what to do when you see someone being mean to a person with a physical disability.

After the performance in which one puppet said he felt guilty for not standing up for his brother who was being picked on, Huckaba and Willison asked the students what should be done in this situation.

The consensus was that the person being mean was the one who should feel guilty and they should be the one to make amends.

Willison said he has been performing for students with these Bunraku shows for over a year and their reactions and advice never fail to impress him.

“They’re kind of amazing,” he said.

He added that he wished something like Kids on the Block had visited his school when he was younger so maybe he would have thought of some other ways to combat the bullying of his friends and loved ones.

Angie Ely, the librarian at West Broad Elementary, said she was thankful that the organization came to their school and that the kids got to see a performance that was unusual yet still impactful.

“This program will not only help them accept the differences of their peers, but also the differences they see out in the community as a whole,” she said.

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