Friday November 30, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- The words "cancer" and "circus" won't often come up in the same sentence.

But organizers are this weekend continuing an innovative program called "Circus for Survivors" in Brattleboro, allowing cancer survivors to experience "gentle and unusual movement" as a means of inspiration and recovery.

Forest Moon, a Brattleboro-based nonprofit, also announced that it has received more funding to continue the free circus program next year.

"We're really excited about it and really happy that we can continue with it," said Pamela Roberts, Forest Moon program director.

Forest Moon offers a variety of free programs to support cancer survivors. Examples include yoga, writing workshops and one-day and weekend retreats.

"Everything is facilitated by a cancer survivor," said Richard Ewald, executive director. "We give people support for their emotional and spiritual well-being."

But he acknowledged that he wasn't sure what to expect when Brattleboro's New England Center for Circus Arts pitched the idea of circus-style activities for those who are living with cancer.

"When they brought this idea to us in the beginning, we were wondering what they were talking about," Ewald said.

The idea has developed, though, into two successful sessions featuring activities designed to "inspire cancer survivors and bring them back into their bodies," Roberts said.

The program's features include juggling, low balancing wires, aerial fabrics and trapezes. Organizers say it is tailored to those who may have lesser mobility or a fear of heights, allowing participants to move at their own pace.

"It is easily adaptable," Roberts said.

The next Circus for Survivors session is scheduled for 2:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the New England Center for Circus Arts facility in the Cotton Mill. This installment is geared toward children age 8 and up and their parents or grandparents.

"It's a great chance for the family to do something fun together," Ewald said.

There still are a few spots remaining for Sunday's program. Anyone interested can contact Roberts at 413-625-2402 or by e-mail at pam@forestmoon.org.

Roberts said the first two sessions, held in October and November, have gone "really well." She cites positive feedback from participants, one of whom wrote this evaluation:

"I have not felt this beautiful since my surgery. Just as cancer teaches you that you can live through stresses you never imagined, this program teaches you that your body can fly and do things you never imagined."

A Windham Foundation grant to the circus-arts center helped get the program started. Now, funding from the California-based Symington Foundation will allow for several more Circus for Survivors sessions in 2013.

Ewald said he believes the program could attract more attention.

"This is a little outside the box. It's unusual," he said. "It's something that could be done elsewhere."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.