News Column

Group hosts show geared toward children with special needs

July 31, 2014

By Samantha Madison, The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.

July 31--CAMP HILL -- The Bill Gladstone Group is working to raise money and awareness for children with special needs in the Midstate.

The commercial real estate group is teaming up with TrueNorth Wellness Services, a behavioral health and wellness organization, to offer a special performance of "Dr. Dolittle Jr." at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center on Aug. 5.

Bill Gladstone, the principal of the Bill Gladstone Group of NAI CIR, said he reached out to Mary McGrath at TrueNorth a few years ago and asked what they could do to help children with autism.

"It started very small," he said. "We would sponsor Big Brothers and Big Sisters, by participating, we would do a blood drive and we try to do as much as we can. But we wanted to have three events, and we wanted to try to do something for the community. We figured it was time to give back to the community."

The first year of the event was in Harrisburg and only drew a small crowd, Gladstone said. After that inaugural year, they switched locations to the performing arts center in Camp Hill and saw more than 100 people come to the program. This year, they decided to keep the event at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center and expand what they have to offer.

This year they are aiming to raise $2,500 for TrueNorth Wellness Services.

Gladstone said they have a fire truck, a hair stylist, arts and crafts and service dogs before the short, one-hour performance of "Dr. Dolittle Jr."

"It's on its way to becoming a bigger event," he said. "We get out of the shadow of the other events. We can stand out and say this is the Bill Gladstone event, and that's what we were kind of shooting for when we did this event."

McGrath, the executive director of TrueNorth, said the funds that are raised by the event help any of the children's services the company offers. Children can be referred to TrueNorth by teachers or parents for anything that could be related to behavior problems.

The company also has adult services for people who could be depressed or anxious or just need somewhere to turn for help dealing with an issue.

Because the Bill Gladstone Group was interested in focusing on children, the event is aimed toward them. McGrath said sometimes, for parents who have a child with autism, it can be difficult to take them to a theater or event where there are a lot of people, loud noises and stimulating visuals. So those parents welcome an event with a short performance and some small things to do.

"If the family needs to come or go during the performance, that's fine," McGrath said. "Families frequently feel reluctant to take their special needs child to a regular theater just because there can be some barriers. So it's a free performance for families with special needs children, and it allows them to bring their child to an accepting and warm environment to see a neat show."

Local students from the Grace Milliman Performing Arts Center have learned the hour-long live show "Dr. Dolittle Jr." The free event begins at 5 p.m. with the pre-show entertainment and then at 6 p.m. the performance will start. The show will be catered to the children's needs with lowered sound and comfortable lighting, which is intended to welcome those with special needs and their families.

Parents can RSVP for the free event by calling the Bill Gladstone Group at 717-731-4504 or TrueNorth at 717-632-4900, ext. 1072.

Those who cannot attend the event can still make a donation to TrueNorth at

Gladstone said he looks forward to raising more money to support programs for children with autism or other special needs as well as promote awareness of the disorder. He said since becoming involved with planning this event over the past three years, he has learned so much about autism and hopes to pass that knowledge along to others.

"We're opening it up to other mental health conditions (this year)," Gladstone said. "It was a good things, all the people working on it here, in my group, felt good about it. They could actually be there with the people and mingle and feel the reward of having been able to be instrumental in the community."

Email Samantha Madison at or follow her on Twitter @SentinelMadison


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Source: Sentinel, The (Carlisle, PA)

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