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Muscular Dystrophy Carnival, Anyone?

When growing up in the 1970s, Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals hit my neighborhood.

Some well-meaning, industrious kid would be inspired to write to the MDA. They would respond with a kit that, I think, included tickets, flyers, posters, and ideas for getting it done.

Everyone was a potential volunteer. Ticket selling, cheesy game manager, marketing guy, food person. Food, in our case, always meant, at best, lemonade and popcorn.

News would fly around, and, next thing you know, a crowd would gather in a backyard. Thousands of kids. By 'thousands', I mean maybe 20. Still, in our young suburb, this was a big deal, the talk of the summer.

We would play ring toss, knock the cans down with a softball (that's a 16-inch softball for you non-Chicagoans), and some kind of toss-the-ball-in-the-bucket game, much the same as Bozo the Clown would have on Bozo's Circus (see video below).

No one had fences back then in Palos Heights, IL, except for the kid with the dog or pool. Even then, the whole yard wasn't fenced. Just part for the dog. Or the pool.

Otherwise, we were a true neighborhood community, not one that agreed with Robert Frost's "good fences make good neighbors." Getting to the carnival was easy. Just walk (or run) as the crow flies. Well, almost. Can't walk through trees or houses. We had plenty of trees.

As noble as the MDA's cause is (and still is), mostly, I remember laughing, playing, and seeing a lot of friends in one place.

As for the MDA, take a look at what you can do for muscular dystrophy.


TUCSON, Ariz., May 27, 2005 – MDA Carnivals are back with a bang! Updated for the new millennium, these homemade backyard carnivals teach kids “It’s Cool to Care,” while raising money for the programs of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Many adults fondly remember holding backyard carnivals for “Jerry’s kids” when they were children. The carnivals – featuring homemade games, booths and shows – were popular in the 1960s and 70s, raising thousands of dollars to help children and adults with neuromuscular diseases.

Once promoted on locally produced children’s television shows, the new MDA Carnival program takes advantage of the modern route to children’s hearts: the Internet. Organized under the theme “It’s Cool to Care,” the new program offers MDA Carnival kits, which can be found at http://www.mdacarnivals.com/ or by calling (800) 572-1717 to request the free kit in CD-ROM or printed form.

Kits include everything from instructions on how to build a booth or create a carnival game, to publicity materials, recipes for carnival food, safety tips, printable signs and other carnival paraphernalia.

“Backyard carnivals once were a rite of summer, and to this day we still get calls asking for information about the program,” MDA President & CEO Robert Ross says. “Some things change over time, but not the desire of parents to teach their children the importance of helping others.”

MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education. The Association's programs are funded almost entirely by individual private contributors.

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