Organizing events for children is no easy task—let alone organizing events with kids. But Silvia Garcia makes it look easy. She does so with grace and aplomb, planning and producing fundraising events for local charities through PAME (Performing Arts Master Classes and Events).
Born and raised in Mexico, Garcia studied and performed ballet as a child, and later earned her degree in media and television production. When she, her husband and their two young children moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2013, she decided to merge her performing arts and production skills with a little fundraising. This led her to organize “The Sound of Soul,” a piano concert fundraiser for the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of Teleton USA, involving her children and their friends in its planning and production.
“We started with 10 kids who were friends of my children,” Garcia explains. “After the first activity, I was amazed by the reaction of the families and children we were helping—but even more so by our kids and their joy from helping others. After that event, I decided to converge my three passions of production, arts and charity to form PAME.”
PAME is comprised of people passionate about producing events to help children and families in need, while helping youth become strong leaders and philanthropists through their own creativity. “We’re offering a platform for expression and communication to our children. They decide which organizations they want to help, and then we approach the institution,” Garcia says. “We are doing great things with young minds and building kind hearts.”
Bringing PAME to Peoria
In 2016, the Garcia family relocated to Peoria, and they brought PAME with them. Garcia quickly found other parents who shared her passion for giving back and involving their children. They include Julia and Jason Fegley, Nayeli Gonzalez, Alina Garcia and Carolina Huser, who now help run the organization, along with a number of committed volunteers who jump in when needed. “I was surprised and delighted by their kindness and passion to help their community,” Garcia notes.
The first PAME event in Peoria was held to support a school in Andhra Pradesh, India. The multimedia production, entitled “Voices of Light,” took place in the theater at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, with children from around the world performing and projected on the giant screen alongside local performers on stage with the Peoria International Choir, led by Masako Johnson. The event raised $10,000, which helped to sponsor 15 children for one school year and went toward the development of a much-needed on-site medical center.
Last October, PAME organized “Steps of Joy” at Five Points Washington to benefit Neighborhood House, featuring performances by several local dance studios and academies. WMBD news anchor Shelbey Roberts emceed the event, while members of the Peoria Rivermen cheered on the kids. “With support from sponsors and dedicated dance studios… we created a unique, energetic, multicultural event with 200 children performing on stage and helping with production,” Garcia explains. “The kids were involved in the production and planning… developing ads, selling tickets and working backstage. They are so comfortable in their roles, it amazes me!”
Making Capes for Cancer
For some of the PAME kids, cancer hit close to home last year when a classmate’s father died of colon cancer. “The kids were really affected by this,” Garcia explains. “And even though it’s not the same thing, they wanted to know how they could help kids with cancer.” So, PAME reached out to the Heller Center for Kids with Cancer at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois to see how they could help. And that’s how the Superhero Design Contest to Knock Out Cancer was born.
Kids from all over Greater Peoria were invited to design a cape that symbolizes hope and strength. The capes will be entered into a contest, and the top 60 entries will be presented at the Junior Designer Fashion Show on May 31st at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. There, kids and therapy dogs will model the capes while children from the Peoria Area Performing Arts Studio (PAPAS) show off their talents.
A panel of judges—including Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, superintendent of Peoria Public Schools, artist Jonathon Romain and Matt George, CEO of the Children’s Home Association of Illinois—will then select 10 capes to be auctioned off at the Designer Fashion Show Peoria in June at Venue Chisca. There will also be a runway show featuring the work of noted Chicago fashion designer Sylwia Wilczynska. “After the show, all the capes will be donated to the kids at the hospital,” Garcia adds, with proceeds going toward the Heller Center.
While PAME’s productions are fun and lively, it’s often the simple things that make the most immediate impact. Coloring Christmas, for instance, is an event they’ve produced the past two years, with PAME kids visiting Courtyard Estates, an independent living center, to perform for residents and deliver small gifts. Support from local businesses, private donors and Neighborhood House help to ensure the residents get items they need. “It’s very rewarding to see the faces and tears of happiness, and the kids feel it immediately,” Garcia explains. “It’s instant gratification for them.”
The success of PAME’s efforts goes to show that the gift of giving can start at any age. “There is no more satisfaction for us than seeing the children’s faces and expressions when they make someone happy,” Garcia says. “Nothing is too simple.” PM
To learn more about PAME or get involved, visit pamekids.org.