SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Appleby School's fifth grade play is a cherished tradition in the borough with the memories and friendships made often streching decades, is launching a 'give back' campaign inspired by longtime fifth grade play director and Helmetta mayor, Chris Slavicek's recent experience with Ryan Brolliar's Music is Medicine Tour. Brolliar's tour had a stop at Chelsea Senior Living in East Brunswick where Slavicek is the vice president of sales and marketing. The experience left Slavicek inspired and he is passing that inspiration on to the students making up the cast and crew of this year's spring production of "Mary Poppins Jr" by launching a 'give back' initiative aimed at teaching the students about the joys and satisfaction of giving to others.
"The ultimate goal of a production is for this theatrical experience to provide a plethora of life lessons and positive messages to those involved, especially the students," explained Slavicek. "Over the past 17 years I have been blessed with the overwhelming support and generosity of our greater community. I remain quite confident these kind gestures have allowed for the students to be graced with an experience second to none. I know that my life is personally impacted by the Appleby Drama family each and every year. The outpouring of kindness keeps my focused with the intent to make even a small difference in the life of one child."
Slavicek's 'give back' initiative coincides with a school-wide Appleby School theme of compassion and learning how to bring happiness to others by simple kind actions. Students in the second through fifth grade school have been participating in classroom and school endeavors, lessons and programs aimed at spreading kindness since the academic year began in September.
"I was fortunate to connect with a very special and incredible individual, Ryan Brolliar," Slavicek continued. "Throughout the next few months and during our production, the students will have the opportunity to connect with Ryan with the focus being on helping others through the power of music."
Slavicek feels this year's production of "Mary Poppins Jr." perfectly coincides with the message of helping others through music pointing towards the character's signature song line, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." He is hoping the students will learn to become the spoonful that gives someone in need a much-needed smile.
Brolliar is a former teacher who left education to pursue his dream of being a musician. The teacher-turned-entertainer became a popular and familiar face performing in San Diego and his native California. In 2015, a tumor was found in his back. After surgery, Brolliar found himself in a diaper and using a walker as he began the long process of recovery. This life-alterning occurance along with a performance at a hospital for hearing-impaired children, led him to find his inspiration to bring music into the lives of those who need it most.
Brolliar is currently involved in his US Music is Medicine Tour where the goal is to bring music to hospitals, senior centers, clinics, shelters and more in all 50 states. The tour began last summer and is being funded by a GoFundMe page, which has registered more than 47,000 donations to date.
So far the musician, who is traveling across America in a converted ambulance Brolliar has dubbed the "jambulance," has visited 27 states including the Garden State and his recent stop at East Brunswick's Chelsea Senior Living on January 14. Brolliar's journey received national attention in December when it was featured on CBS News.
Slavicek's 'give back' campaign will include efforts to help Brolliar continue his Music is Medicine tour, helping him reach all 50 states.
"In the words of Mary Poppins," Slavicek added. "Anything can happen if you let it."