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Monday, April 18, 2011

A gift funds a day under big top for many families

April 17, 2011

By Akilah Johnson, Boston Globe Staff

For several years, the two oldest of Chantal Augustin’s three children have been asking a question about what has been a childhood rite of passage for generations: “When can we go to the circus?’’ But Augustin, who has been unable to work for medical reasons, never had the money to take them. Yesterday she made their dream come true. Augustin and her children, ages 14 to 4, sat in an audience of hundreds of people who “oohed’’ and “ahhed’’ at the Big Apple Circus at Boston City Hall Plaza thanks to a donation to the Boston Foundation. The anonymous donation enabled the foundation, which awards grants to local nonprofits, to buy out the performance and provide service organizations in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Lynn with 1,700 tickets for their members. The money also covered the cost of standard circus sustenance: cotton candy, hot dogs, and lemonade. “I am so happy right now,’’ Augustin said before the show. “As a mother, when your kids are asking you for something [that you can’t provide], you feel like you’re letting them down.’’ Augustin, 35, of Dorchester, received tickets through the Community Health Worker Initiative, a job training program provided by Action for Boston Community Development. Her classmate, Emma Prevazi, was just as excited about being able to take her two children to the circus, although the Albanian native said she had no idea what to expect. “I’ve never been!’’ Prevazi, 30, of West Roxbury, said before the show. “It will be their first time, too.’’ When asked what they expected, Prevazi said “maybe games or shows.’’ And the audience received a show indeed. Orange, red, yellow, and green lights bathed the center ring in a rainbow of color as the honorary ringmaster, Governor Deval Patrick, welcomed the crowd wearing a black top hat. But he skipped the ringmaster’s traditional tailcoat, joking, “I think you need to draw the line.’’ “We’re so glad you’re here,’’ Patrick said to a crowd of excited adults and children, many of whom were wearing bright red clown noses that the governor handed out before the show. “We’re excited for the show.’’ Allisha Martinez, 4, sat at the edge of her seat as the Wuqiao Acrobatic Troupe jumped rope while pedaling monocycles and contortionists in yellow tutus twisted and turned their bodies. The box of popcorn she’d munched on so intently before the show sat discarded in her mother’s lap. Entertaining audiences that traditionally don’t get the chance to visit the big top is an integral part of the mission of the Big Apple Circus, which was founded in the 1970s as a nonprofit organization. Boston for decades has been an annual stop for the traveling circus, which tours New England from September through July.

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